The USDA announced plans to purchase approximately 11 million pounds of cheese from private inventories to assist food banks and pantries across the nation, while reducing a cheese surplus that is at its highest level in 30 years. USDA also announced that it will extend the deadline for dairy producers to enroll in the Margin Protection Program (MPP) for Dairy to Dec. 16, 2016, from the previous deadline of Sept. 30.
The purchase, valued at $20 million, will be provided to families in need across the country through USDA nutrition assistance programs, while assisting the stalled marketplace for dairy producers whose revenues have dropped 35 percent over the past two years.
“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,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “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.”
USDA received requests from Congress, the National Farmers Union, the American Farm Bureau and the National Milk Producers Federation to make an immediate dairy purchase. Section 32 of the Agriculture Act of 1935 authorizes USDA to utilize fiscal year 2016 funds to purchase surplus food to benefit food banks and families in need through its nutrition assistance programs.
Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of National Milk Producers Federation provided the following comment about the recent decision from USDA.
“This cheese purchase will provide some assistance to America’s dairy farmers through increased demand for their milk, while also serving the needs of Americans who patronize food banks and other charitable assistance organizations that will distribute the cheese purchased by USDA. We will continue to assess the economic situation facing dairy farmers, and suggest ways to help farmers endure this lengthy period of low prices. We will continue to work with USDA and Congress to find ways to further improve the Margin Protection Program for dairy farmers.”