A Grain of Truth: How the Government Pays You to Eat Junk Food

Posted on 12. Nov, 2012 by in What to Eat

Why would the US Government and USDA continue to push grains, grain-based products, and vegetable oils on the American people if their recommendations are only leading to rising obesity and disease rates?

The answer may lie in subsidies.

The Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of the most financially supported subsidies in the US from 1995-2011.  A subsidy essentially means that the US Government pays farmers money to produce certain foods.  The list below shows which food producers have received the most money over the last 15 years.


Total Money Received from 1995-2011


$81.7 Billion


$34.4 Billion


$32.3 Billion


$26.4 Billion


$13.3 Billion


$4.9 Billion


$3.7 Billion


$3.6 Billion


$1.3 Billion


$957 Million


$429 Million


$273 Million


$261 Million

The corn, wheat, soy, and rice industries have been given over $150 billion worth of taxpayer money over the last 15 years.  To put this chart in simpler terms, the government pays your tax money to food producers in order to make bread, cereal, pasta, candy, cookies, and soda very cheap for you in the grocery store.  The foods you should be eating, like vegetables and grass-fed beef, receive little to no government support.

This is a key reason why healthy food ends up seeming very expensive.  In reality, healthy food is sold at fair market price, but most junk food prices remain artificially low due to subsidies.

This also places the government in a tricky situation.  Assuming they wanted to go ahead and change their nutritional recommendations, they would be contradicting decades of their own nutritional advice and billions of dollars of their own financial support.  They would also have to overcome corporate giants like Monsanto, Kellog’s, and General Mills, which are probably some of the key reasons why the subsidies even exist in the first place.

Whether you believe the government and the USDA have good intentions or not, they have put themselves in a position which makes it very difficult to objectively evaluate good research regarding health and nutrition.  For now, we will have to continue to educate ourselves about the dangers of grains, grain-based products, and vegetable oils.

*If you are wondering why you don’t see sugar in the chart above, it’s because most of the corn produced goes into making corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, which are cheaper substitutes for sugar in most processed foods.

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