The Nine Foods The Government Pays You To Eat
9. Sunflower Oil
> Commodity: Sunflowers
> Total Subsidies (1995-2010): $880 million
> % Change in Annual Subsidies (1995-2010): 540%
> Biggest Producers: Cargill, Dow AgroChemical
Sunflowers, mainly used to produce oil and seeds, have received more subsidy dollars in the past fifteen years than canola, oats, or apples. It should be noted that more than $400 million of this funding, nearly half of the total given over 15 years, occurred in the three-year period between 1999 and 2001. While seeds eaten out of the shell are a common snack, accounting for 25% of all consumption, sunflower oil is the most common use of the plant. The oil is used both for flavor enhancement and as a cooking oil, as well as in cosmetics.
8. Peanut Butter
> Commodity: Peanuts
> Total Subsidies (1995-2010): $3.4 billion
> % Change in Annual Subsidies (1995-2010): +675%
> Biggest Producers: The J.M. Smucker Co., Unilever
As of 2008, Americans consumed nearly one additional pound of peanuts per person than they did in 1995. In 2008, peanut subsidies were almost ten times the amount they were in 1995. Peanut subsidies did not exceed $26 million during the 1990s. They increased in the early 2000s, however, reaching a peak in 2002, when peanut farmers received a massive $1.11 billion to help adjust to new competition brought on by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Peanut butter is currently consumed in 90% of U.S. households, according to the National Peanut Board. The board also reported that Americans consumed more than 4 billion pounds of peanuts in 2010.
7. Ground Beef
> Commodity: Livestock
> Total Subsidies (1995-2010): $3.6 billion
> % Change in Annual Subsidies (1995-2010): +258%
> Biggest Producers: Fairbank Farms, Cargill
Between 1995 and 2010, livestock producers received roughly $3.6 billion in federal subsidies. While subsidies have increased more than 250% in those fifteen years, the annual payout is down significantly from 2002, when farmers received nearly $1 billion in one year alone. While livestock includes goats, sheep and pork, beef is by far the most commonly produced and consumed of these. More than 40% of beef is sold as ground beef. At last count, Americans ate roughly 66 pounds of beef in one year, 28 pounds of which was ground.
> Commodity: Dairy
> Total Subsidies (1995-2010): $4.9 billion
> % Change in Annual Subsidies (1995-2010): +1.5%
> Biggest Producers: Dean Foods, Dairy Farmers of America
Despite the fact that the dairy industry has received subsidies totaling just under $5 billion since 1995, milk consumption has decreased in the U.S. since that year. Whole milk, specifically, has decreased consistently. Despite the decline, the average person consumed 20.8 gallons of the beverage per year. Annual dairy subsidies have been inconsistent. In 2008, just under $13 million was given to dairy farmers. In 2009, that amount increased dramatically to $1.2 billion, as dairy farmers were hit by the recession and a decrease in exports.