While you've been blissfully unaware, literal mountains of cheese have been piling up in our nation's cheese warehouses. In May, it was revealed that we had stockpiled 1.2 billion pounds of "natural American cheese" like Colby and Jack. We haven't had a cheese surplus this large in 30 years, and American cheesemakers have watched their revenues drop 35 percent while cheese stocks have grown.
But the handwringing has come to an end: The federal government has announced they'll save our asses and buy 11 million pounds of cheese for a cool $20 million.
The government is bailing out American cheese producers who found themselves in a pickle thanks to increased competition from Europe. Cheap milk and a weakened euro have made European cheeses cheap here in the US, while making American cheeses more expensive abroad. The result: People aren't buying American cheese like they used to. Except the feds, that is, who will donate the cheese to food banks and charities.
"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 press release. He added that the purchase "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 bulk buy came after Congress, the American Farm Bureau, The National Milk Producers Federation, and the National Farmers Union asked the government to help move some of the cheese surplus.
If you've been filling your fridge with fancy imported Bries, Comtés, and Camemberts, consider the plastic-wrapped blue-collar cheeses piling up in storerooms across the country. They need you, or at least, the companies that manufacture them do.