US government to purchase surplus cheese to help out dairy farmers

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) plans to buy a surplus of cheese to help out dairy producers whose revenues have dropped by 35% over the past two years.

Approximately 11m pounds of cheese will be bought from private inventories and given to food banks across the country, according to the USDA.

The cheese, valued at $20m (€17.7m), will be provided to families in need across the country through USDA nutrition assistance programs.

The planned purchase will benefit both dairy producers and people in need, according to Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack.

“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.

“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,” Vilsack said.

USDA will continue to look for ways within its authorities to tackle food insecurity and provide for added stability in the marketplace.

Requests to make an immediate dairy purchase were made by Congress, the National Farmers Union, the American Farm Bureau and the National Milk Producers Federation, according to the USDA.

The USDA also announced that the deadline for dairy producers to enrol in the Margin Protection Programme (MPP) for Dairy has been extended to December 16, 2016.

This voluntary dairy safety net program provides financial assistance to participating dairy producers when the difference between the price of milk and feed costs falls below the coverage level selected by the producer, according to the USDA.

On August 4, USDA announced approximately $11.2m (€9.9m) in financial assistance to US dairy producers enrolled in MPP-Dairy, the largest payment since the program was established 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.