Behold: cheese mountains. No longer mere tasty figments of your most sumptuous daydreams, giant stockpiles of cheese have been amassing all over the country for months. And now, the U.S. government is going to buy them.
According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the cheese surplus is “at its highest level in 30 years.” Why is there so much cheese? As Slate’s Jordan Weissmann explained in May, “U.S. dairies have been losing sales to competition from Europe, where an oversupply of milk has driven down the price of cheese and butter and a falling euro has made exports more competitive.”
So desperate, in fact, is the cheese situation, that the USDA said it “received requests from Congress, the National Farmers Union, the American Farm Bureau and the National Milk Producers Federation to make an immediate dairy purchase.” The cheese buy is valued at $20 million.
“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, adding that the cheese will be donated to food banks. He said: “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.”
The cheese surplus is over. Long live the cheese surplus.