The U.S. Government stores 1.45 billion pounds of cheese

The U.S. Government currently stores 1.45 billion lbs (655 thousand tonnes) of cheese

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Americans consumed on average 40.2 pounds of cheese in 2020. And yet, due to the over supply of cheese products, that barely made a dent on the huge surplus of cheese the American government is storing on various storage facilities throughout the US. 

From 1998 to 2021, milk consumption has fallen from 198 pounds of milk per capita to 141 pounds. And though demand is declining, production is not. It has risen 44%  during the same period, from 157 million pounds in 1998, to 226 million pounds in 2021. 

According to the Farm Link Project, in 2016, the American dairy industry dumped a whopping 43 million gallons of milk into fields, animal feed, and anaerobic lagoons. Though this waste is staggering, it is also not representative of the size of the surpluses being run by dairy farms. The dairy industry received 43 billion and 36.3 billion dollars in 2016 and 2017, respectively, from the federal government. In 2018, 42% of revenue for U.S. dairy producers came from some kind of government support. It is important to note that the dairy lobby is largely responsible for influencing politics to dedicate this money for the industry, and the money mostly goes to the big dairy companies that fund the lobby, leaving smaller operations to fend for themselves in the increasingly competitive market. 

But why did the U.S. Government start collecting all that cheese? 

How we got to this point is a long story that started in 1949, when the Agricultural Act of 1949 gave the Commodity Credit Corporation, a government-owned corporation dedicated to stabilizing farm incomes, the authority to purchase dairy products like cheese from farmers. The CCC had been around since the Great Depression, when it was created as part of the New Deal’s attempt to stabilize prices and help farmers.

Then the 1970s recession came by, a byproduct of which, was also the unprecedented shortage of dairy products. In 1973, dairy prices shot up 30% as the price of other foods inflated. When the government decided to intervene, prices fell so low that the dairy industry baulked. To combat that, in 1977, the then-president Jimmy Carter set a new subsidy policy that poured $2 billion into the dairy industry in the span of four years.

This helped the dairy industry immensely, but also led farmers to produce more milk, in order to take advantage of the subsidies, as they knew that whatever amount they produced, the government would buy. And indeed, the government did purchase the milk dairy farmers couldn’t sell and began to process it into cheese, butter and dehydrated milk powder. 

Now, in 2022, the government has carried on with storing cheese in numerous cold storage warehouses around the US, as it continues subsidising and stockpiling America’s surplus cheese.

You can read more about the historical aspects here and here

You can also find how much of what the Government has stored during the past century, on USDA's website