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The U.S. government is buying a lot of cheese — 11 million pounds to be exact.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it’s an effort to reduce a cheese surplus in America that’s at its “highest level in 30 years.”
The USDA plans to fork over $20 million to purchase the cheese from “private inventories.” The cheese will then be donated to food banks and food pantries across the country.
The cheese purchase will also help struggling U.S. dairy producers who have experienced a 35 percent drop in revenue over the past two years — the result of increased supply, sluggish demand and low dairy prices.
The USDA says Congress, the National Farmers Union, the American Farm Bureau and the National Milk Producers Federation all urged the agency to make an “immediate dairy purchase.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack explains in a press release:
“We understand that the nation’s dairy producers are experiencing challenges due to market conditions and that food banks continue to see strong demand for assistance. The commodity purchase is part of a robust, comprehensive safety net that will help reduce a cheese surplus that is at a 30-year high while, at the same time, moving a high-protein food to the tables of those most in need.”
The cheese purchase comes on the heels of a USDA announcement that there is now $11.2 million in financial assistance available to dairy producers in the Dairy Margin Protection Program, which was established by the 2014 Farm Bill.
“By supporting a strong farm safety net, expanding credit options and growing domestic and foreign markets, USDA is committed to helping America’s dairy operations remain successful,” Vilsack says.
According to Quartz, the U.S. had 759 million pounds of extra cheese in cold storage in June. For comparison’s sake, two years ago, the U.S. had 655 million pounds of surplus cheese in storage.
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