The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Tuesday that it will buy nearly $20 million worth of cheese from private inventories for food banks and pantries all over the country. The purchase is expected to help reduce a cheese surplus that is at its highest in 30 years.
The USDA is purchasing nearly 11 million pounds of cheese which will be provided to families in need through its nutrition assistance programs.
Dairy farmers have been experiencing difficulties in making money since overseas buyers have stopped buying from the U.S. due to the steady climb of the dollar and more milk production in Europe. Their revenues have dropped 35 percent in the last two years. This $20 million purchase will assist the stalled sales.
“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,” agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
“This 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. USDA will continue to look for ways within its authorities to tackle food insecurity and provide for added stability in the marketplace.”
Earlier this month, the USDA announced nearly $11.2 million in financial assistance for U.S. dairy farmers enrolled in the Margin Protection Program (MPP) for Dairy — the largest payment since the program was set up in 2014.
“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 said.
The USDA is also extending the deadline for dairy producers to join the MPP-Dairy from Sept. 30 to Dec. 16, 2016.