- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 14, 2008

Voters and consumers need look no further than farm subsidies to discover why a nutrient-rich apple costs four times more than an over-processed Twinkie.

It’s true. A Twinkie costs 15 cents, and a Gala apple at a grocery store wears a price tag of $1.25 - despite the fact that each Twinkie ingredient goes through the process of being crushed, baked, fermented, refined and/or reacted into a totally unrecognizable goo or powder with a strange name - all for the sake of creating a simple snack cake. Meanwhile, an apple undergoes two steps: plant and pick.

So why does it cost more to produce an apple than a Twinkie?

Well, your friendly Capitol Hill lawmakers persist in passing a farm bill every five years that hurts the taxpayer, grocery shopper and the small farmer.

Congress passed the proposed $290 billion farm bill on May 22, over-riding President Bush’s veto and setting the rules for the American food system for the next five years. Approximately two-thirds of the bill funds nutrition programs such as food stamps and about $40 billion is for farm subsidies. An additional $30 billion goes to farmers to idle their land as part of other environmental programs.



The problem lies in subsidizing crops like corn, soybeans, rice, cotton and wheat. Consequently, processed foods like the Twinkie - which consists of a clever arrangement of carbohydrates and fats teased out of corn, soybeans and wheat - are scandalously cheap while the prices of healthy, unprocessed produce skyrocket.

Herein lies the health rub: As the cost of a Twinkie stays low and the price of an apple soars, American waistlines and diabetes statistics are swelling. And childhood obesity is quickly earning the title of epidemic.

So who actually benefits from the crop subsidies? The farm lobby likes to pretend that the small family farmer does, but that is not the case. Because subsidies are given based on level of production, mega-farms benefit the most. Though the latest farm bill attempts to limit this, it will add up to $26 billion in direct payments to mega-farms over the next five years.

Americans deserve a solution, but it likely won’t come from Congress. As food prices continue to climb, your best bet for finding affordable, fresh produce is at your local farmer’s market. This solution helps your waistline and the small farmers in your region.

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