The 9 Foods the U.S. Government Is Paying You to Eat

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In 2009, the federal government spent $12.3 billion in payments to America's farmers. The number was cause for celebration, and not only among the tractor and overall industries. $12.3 billion was nearly the lowest payment in the past decade, as high food prices surpassed the threshold for subsidies.

By and large, most subsidies function as a form of so-called "farm income stabilization." The Department of Agriculture sets a price floor for a given crop. If market prices rise above that level, farms sell on the open market. If prices fall below, the government reimburses farmers the difference between the market and the floor price for every unit grown -- or not.

Even as farmers profit from increased demand, the government remains a major player in the food business. While assessments of the subsidies' quality varies -- with many commentators labeling them indigestible -- attempts to cut have thus far been unsuccessful.

So what is the Department of Agriculture putting on your plate? We present the top nine products that the government most heavily subsidizes.


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Presented by

24/7 Wall St. and Chris Danello

Douglas A. McIntyre, Ashley C. Allen, Michael B. Sauter, and Charles B. Stockdale are editors of 24/7 Wall St., a Delaware-based financial news and opinion operation. Chris Danello is a producer at TheAtlantic.com.

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