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U.S Government Hoards 1.4 Billion Pounds of Cheese in Missouri Caves

Hundreds of feet below the fertile farmland of Missouri are caves kept precisely at 36 degrees Fahrenheit, containing the American government’s most prized possession: 1.4 billion pounds of American cheese.

This colossal stockpile of dairy began in the 1970s during a national dairy shortage. Due to the shortage, prices of dairy products skyrocketed up 30%. Following the intense inflation of dairy prices, the government intervened, causing the prices to fall too drastically. As a result, in 1977, then-president Jimmy Carter decided to pour money into the dairy industry in an attempt to put an end to the crisis and promote more dairy production, financially supporting the dairy industry with nearly $2 billion.

Under the new policy set by the American government, any dairy products that were not sold would be purchased by the government, promoting farmers to mass produce dairy products. By the early 1980s, the government had amassed over 500 million pounds of cheese. All dairy products that the government collected were turned into cheese due to its longer shelf life as the government searched for a way to solve the new problem it had created.

In 1981, then-President Ronald Reagan began the distribution of “government cheese.” They distributed these blocks of cheese through the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The cheese was given away for free by pickup at local food banks, community centers, etc. “Government cheese” has since become a totem in American culture, referenced in artists’ songs such as Kendrick Lamar’s “Money Trees” and in a cooking show wherein Snoop Dogg taught Martha Stewart how to cook with government cheese.

In 1995, the Clinton administration established Dairy Management Inc. to help move dairy products that were less and less in demand. With $140 million as an annual budget, Dairy Management Inc. works to promote more dairy consumption to the American public through means such as the infamous “Got Milk?” advertisement campaign and including milk in the federal school lunch program, which is why milk is a requirement in Morristown West High School’s lunch periods.

From the turn of the century to today, demand for dairy products has been declining even faster, however, dairy production has not. Despite the American public being more aware of unhealthy effects dairy can have if consumed regularly and the staggering 36% of Americans who are lactose intolerant, dairy production has risen 13% since 2010 as of 2021. Additionally, according to the USDA, American milk consumption has dropped from 275 pounds per capita in 1975 to 149 pounds per capita in 2017. Despite all this, the dairy industry received $43 billion in 2016 and $36.3 billion 2017. In 2018, 42% of all U.S dairy producers’ revenue came from some form of government support.

Today, people argue against the mass production of dairy products and the subsequent accumulation of 1.4 billion pounds of cheese stashed in caves beneath Missouri. Many argue that tax payer money would be better spent elsewhere instead of supporting the overproducing dairy industry and the subsequent cheese caves the government has created as a direct result of purchasing unsold dairy. Some have recommended that the government should instead aid farmers in producing crops and products that are more in demand than dairy, such as grains and tree nuts.

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