Why is There So Much Food?

October 5, 2016 11:17 AM
farm market fruits vegetables

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Warehouses, distribution centers and grocery stores are overflowing with some food staples, such as milk, eggs and frozen fruits and vegetables, the result of increased production and decreased exports. Take dairy, for example: With the most milk ever produced in the U.S. - about 24 billion gallons - that means there are record amounts of butter and cheese.

The glut of food means lower prices for consumers. Here's a short explanation of how the surplus came about and where it all goes:



Two years ago, high prices for milk, pork, poultry and eggs encouraged farmers to expand livestock operations. Plus, U.S. consumers were opening their wallets and trade partners were willing to keep buying our products. Add to that the cheap cost of animal feed that encouraged farmers to boost livestock's weight before taking them to market.

But agriculture is a cyclical business: The relative high value of the dollar makes U.S. products more expensive to importers, so they've slowed their buying. Last year's bird flu crisis also caused many trade partners to stop taking eggs and turkey and chicken meat, and while production of eggs has returned, demand isn't fully restored.

Those factors and others have suppressed demand, but the cows keep pumping out milk and veggies continue to grow, resulting in a surplus of certain types of food.


Step into the freezer. The 1.24 billion pounds of cheese in refrigerated warehouses is the highest for the month of August since records began in 1921, and includes nearly 770 million pounds of American cheese and 25.7 million pounds of Swiss. Other stockpiles include:

- 322 million pounds of butter (up 52 percent from a year ago)

- 1.52 billion pounds of frozen fruit, including 377 million pounds of strawberries and 313 million pounds of blueberries

- 1.31 billion pounds of frozen poultry (chicken and turkey), up 4 percent from a year ago.

But not everything is being stored. The USDA announced in August it was buying 11 million pounds of cheese for $20 million and sending it to food banks and food pantries through a government nutrition assistance program. Farm organizations also are boosting their efforts to improve U.S. exports and move some of the glut out of the country.


Food prices depend on factors beyond just supply, such as weather and oil prices. Given those unpredictable factors, the USDA expects supermarket prices overall to rise between 1 and 2 percent next year for beef, veal, pork, eggs, poultry and fresh fruit.

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Spell Check

Booker , TX
10/5/2016 05:48 PM

  Why are you stockpiling.............supposedly some people do not have food and the food give away people warehouses in Amarillo Tx are supposedly empty.... I do not understand this stockpiling by the government or why when I go to the grocery store there is not enough on the shelf for me to buy

Nebraska City, NE
10/5/2016 05:32 PM

  so why are the stores charging us $7 for an inky binky little bitty teensy weensy box of blueberries when 2 months ago a box twice that size cost $2.98

Lincoln, NE
10/5/2016 06:00 PM

  With so many uncertainties of food quality, quantity, availability and affordability, I appreciate locally grown available farmers markets produce. There, shoppers can meet first hand those producers and retailers to discuss how things are down on the farm, urban and rural gardens. Some individuals are even growing their own food in the back yard, in green houses for year around produce utilizing wastes for composting and fertilizers as organically naturally produce. This reminds me growing up on the farm helping mom plant, cultivate, water, fertilize, watch for diseases and insects and harvest eating as the four of us children collected food for the next meal and those cold winter days. Those were the days of deep discussion of timely important topics of the day. Mom (87 years young) and dad (93 years young) are still living on their farm after 67 years of marriage. GREAT TO HAVE THEM SHARING STORIES ABOUT THEIR LIVES.


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