Right now, as you read this, 1.36 billion pounds of American-made cheese is languishing—languishing!—in commercial warehouses. According to The Washington Post’s Wonkblog, that’s the largest amount of stockpiled cheese since the Agriculture Department began keeping track nearly 100 years ago. Cheese reserves have increased 6 percent since this time last year. Why?
These are tough times for dairy farmers, who face lagging milk prices. An abundance of milk isn’t easily stored, so dairy farmers are turning their excess milk into cheese and shipping it to warehouses to await… something. Plus, summer is an especially down time for milk and cheese consumption: “Demand has also fallen as school cafeterias close for the summer and restaurants wind down the cheesy specials they offer in the winter and early spring,” The Washington Post reports. Trade tensions could also negatively impact American cheese sales.
But farmers are still milking cows, and in fact, those cows are becoming more productive milk-makers than ever thanks to technological developments and genetic advances. Government payouts to dairy farmers are lower than in the past, and all this languishing cheese—sorry, that’s the phrase of the day—threatens to drop prices further.
Dairy associations have stopped short of asking the government to buy up the excess cheese—a move dubbed “quantitative cheesing,” oh my god—as the Feds did in 2016. Some analysts are hopeful Americans will find a renewed appetite for cheese as summer pizza sales heat up. Perhaps America, we can do our patriotic duty this Fourth Of July and make every burger a four-cheese burger. Ask not what your country can do for you, etc.