American Dairy Farmers Have Produced More Cheese Than We Can Consume

So the USDA is buying the surplus and giving it to food banks

By Amanda Arnold

Published on August 26, 2016

America’s dairy industry has done it again—we’ve found ourselves with an insurmountable abundance of cheese. Thankfully, we have the government to take care of it.

Three days ago, the USDA announced that it would buy $20 million worth of cheese from dairy farmers to give to food banks and pantries. As reported in NPR's The Salt, this is good for both food banks and dairy farmers. For the former, cheese is a popular product ironically in short supply; for the latter, it has more to do with tackling the global overabundance of cheese, which has been hurting their milk production.

“Dairy farmers were happy, too, hoping that this government purchase would help relieve what headlines trumpeted as a mountain of cheese that has been driving down the price they get for their milk,” the article reads.

While the current-day surplus is a result of dairy farmers upping their cheese production two years ago in response to soaring prices, and then sales dropping out of nowhere in two countries that aren’t small by any means (China and Russia), the world has never been very good at managing the dairy industry. Starting in the 1930s, the U.S. government began stockpiling milk and cheese to support programs for dairy farmers, and by the 1970s, there were .4 billion pounds of cheese in storage; in the 1980s, that amount rocketed up to 1.2 billion pounds, which isn’t far off from the current 1.3 billion pounds in storage today.

So how will this new announcement help tackle the surplus? While $20 million is no small amount of money, the government’s purchase will take care of less than one percent of the 1.3 billion pounds of cheese in storage. As for the high milk prices that the world is seeing, the NPR article reports that we won’t likely see a drop. So while the USDA’s move is bold and noble, and any action counts, it won’t chip too much off the world’s massive mountain of cheese.

At least it tastes good—NPR guesses that the majority of it is cheddar and mozzarella, America’s two beloved favorites.

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