THERESA, WI - JUNE 27: Lenny Zimmel puts Colby cheese curds into forms to make 40 pounds blocks of cheese at the Widmer's Cheese Cellars on June 27, 2016 in Theresa, Wisconsin. Widmer's is an artisanal cheesemaker that has produced cheese in the same facility for four generations much the same way as it was made by the founder, with traditional open vats and curds being stirred and scooped into molds by hand. Record dairy production in the United States has produced a record surplus of cheese causing prices to drop. Despite this surplus Widmer's says it continues to see growth as consumers continue to gravitate toward craft-made food products.
Scott Olson—Getty Images
By Mahita Gajanan
August 23, 2016

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will buy $20 million of cheese from private inventories to reduce a cheese surplus currently at an all-time high.

The cheese, which amounts to about 11 million pounds, will go to food banks and pantries across the country to assist families in need, the USDA said on Tuesday.

The purchase also helps dairy farmers who have asked the government to assist with the massive cheese glut, which has left more than a billion pounds of cheese locked away in storage, the Wall Street Journal reported. The cheese surplus is at its highest level in 30 years, the USDA said.

Dairy producers have had trouble making money recently, as overseas buyers have stopped purchasing from the U.S. due to the high dollar and more milk production in Europe, the Journal reported. Revenues have dropped 35 percent for dairy farmers over the past two years, according to the USDA.

“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,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “USDA will continue to look for ways within its authorities to tackle food insecurity and provide for added stability in the marketplace.”

Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com.

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