In 2009, the U.S. federal government paid $12.3 billion to America's farmers. Even as farmers profit from increased demand, the government remains a major player in the food business.
The Atlantic has put together a list of the top nine products that the government most heavily subsidizes:
- Peanut Butter
- Sunflower Oil
Corn, at the top of the list, raked in over $77 billion from the government between 1995 and 2010, and the subsidies have only been going up. There's a common belief that healthy food is inherently more expensive, and thus can only be for the wealthy. But in fact, healthy food could easily be more affordable for everyone, if not for agribusiness CEOs, their lobbyists and the politicians in their pockets.
Lawmakers whose campaigns are underwritten by agribusinesses use billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize the commodities that are the key ingredients of unhealthy food -- corn, soybeans, wheat, etc. This manufactured price inequality helps junk food undersell nutritious food.
According to Salon:
"Corn -- which is processed into the junk-food staple corn syrup ... -- exemplifies the scheme ... [I]t is a bargain, but one created by deliberate government policy that serves the corn industry titans, not by any genetic advantage that makes corn derivatives automatically more affordable for the budget-strapped commoner."
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) also released its 2011 Farm Subsidy Database, although the USDA has reportedly refused to release all the data to confirm exactly who the billions in farm subsidies are being paid out to. Still, as EWG stated:
" … despite lawmakers' boasts of enacting major reforms in the 2008 farm bill, the new data clearly show that wealthy absentee land owners and mega farms awash in record income are once again the main beneficiaries of federal farm programs – while struggling family farmers go begging.
And once again, the database shows that many farm subsidy recipients get those fat government checks at addresses in New York City, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles – not exactly farm country, and a far cry from the programs' original intent".