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Large USDA Cheese Purchase Aims to Spur Dairy Prices
USAgNet - 08/24/2016

It appears that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is ready to take action to help struggling dairy farmers. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Tuesday that his agency plans to purchase approximately 11 million pounds of cheese from private inventories to assist food banks and pantries across the nation. The move is expected to reduce a cheese surplus that is at its highest level in 30 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," Vilsack said. "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 says the purchase is valued at $20 million. It is expected to provide families in need across the country through USDA's nutrition assistance programs, while assisting the stalled marketplace for dairy producers whose revenues have dropped 35 percent over the past two years.

In recent months, the USDA has been hearing from members of Congress and farm groups asking that the federal government make an immediate dairy purchase. Section 32 of the Agriculture Act of 1935 authorizes the USDA to utilize funds to purchase surplus food to benefit food banks and families in need through its nutrition assistance programs.

Meanwhile, the USDA also announced that it will extend the deadline for dairy producers to enroll in the Margin Protection Program to December 16, 2016. The original deadline was set for September 30.

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