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TIME IS A CHEESE WHEEL

There are four pounds of cheese in storage for every American

(AP Photo/Charles W. Harrity
Ronald Reagan in Missouri, where he would soon store billions of dollars in cheese.
  • Dave Gershgorn
By Dave Gershgorn

Artificial intelligence reporter

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

US cheese storage is back on its bullshit.

Commercial and government cheese stores reached a new record of 1.3 billion pounds this month, according to the USDA, which has kept records of cheese storage since 1917.

Cheese stores today are typically held by commercial entities, but this wasn’t always the case. In the 1980s the US had a massive glut of cheese, bought by the government in a commitment to maintain dairy prices, according to the New York Times. The cheese came in handy for Ronald Reagan’s “government cheese” program, which released 30 million pounds of the lactose-laden dairy product (paywall) to any state that applied. The massive stockpile—estimated worth $4 billion—was kept safe deep inside Missouri caves.

When Reagan signed the 1981 farm bill, of which his cheese program was a part, the US cheese stockpile sat at 590 million pounds. That would skyrocket to 1.2 billion pounds of backup cheese over the next three years. The amount of cheese per American in the mid-80s is still unparalleled.

Cheese storage isn’t indicative of the overall cheese market, though. Cheese production still far outstrips cheese storage, with more than 12 billion pounds being produced in the US in 2017.

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