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How Government Cheese Became Welfare For Farmers

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The U.S. has too much cheese — 1.4 billion pounds of it to be exact. To get some of that cheese off the market, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has spent $47.1 million buying up roughly 22 million pounds of it since 2016, according to a USDA spokesperson. But this isn't the first time the government has bought tons of American cheese. In the 1970s, the USDA stepped in to help control volatile milk prices, and it became very profitable to produce milk. So, farmers started producing way too much of it, which was then turned into way too much cheese. In 1981, then-President Ronald Reagan declared 30 million pounds of American cheese would be distributed to food pantries, school lunch programs and other welfare programs. By 1984, the U.S. was storing about 5 pounds of cheese for every American. "People talk about food assistance programs as if they were created to help poor people out," said Andrew Novakovic, professor of agricultural economics at Cornell University. "Yes that's true, but almost all of the major food assistance programs were ideas that came from agriculture because we had too much of something." Suddenly a block of surplus dairy product became a neatly packaged symbol of economic status known as "government cheese." It's been referenced in "SNL" sketches and songs by artists including DMX, Kendrick Lamar, The Roots and Jay Z. "It would come in these big brick-type blocks and it's like Day-Glo orange," said Bobbi Dempsey, writer of The Tyranny and the Comfort of Government Cheese. "It brings back bittersweet feelings. It was a staple of childhood, so there's a nostalgia about that. But at the same time it's yet another aspect of life as a poor person that you had no control over." » Subscribe to CNBC: http://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBC About CNBC: From 'Wall Street' to 'Main Street' to award winning original documentaries and Reality TV series, CNBC has you covered. Experience special sneak peeks of your favorite shows, exclusive video and more. Connect with CNBC News Online Get the latest news: http://www.cnbc.com/ Follow CNBC on LinkedIn: https://cnb.cx/LinkedInCNBC Follow CNBC News on Facebook: http://cnb.cx/LikeCNBC Follow CNBC News on Twitter: http://cnb.cx/FollowCNBC Follow CNBC News on Google+: http://cnb.cx/PlusCNBC Follow CNBC News on Instagram: http://cnb.cx/InstagramCNBC #CNBC How Government Cheese Became Welfare For Farmers
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Text Comments (3420)
JUK3MASTER (3 hours ago)
As a foreigner hearing "government cheese" so many times made me laugh uncontrollably
uncle juan (3 hours ago)
Wheat corn dairy . Death to humanity
bravobob1 (4 hours ago)
Informative vid. Thanks
informitas 0 (6 hours ago)
ITT Americans praising socialized cheese.
the artist formally known as craig lastname (17 hours ago)
So this is the reason American cheese is so bad.
pixel girl (18 hours ago)
I'd prefer government weed.
Matthew Spika (20 hours ago)
Sooo, welfare for farmers?
Alex Bueno (1 day ago)
I am 32 and I remember government cheese vividly. I think the government will issue cheese to some people again.
Keisha Nicole (1 day ago)
Captain Freedom (1 day ago)
Gubmint chee
mark yono (1 day ago)
I attended a school that served government cheese and strangely enough it was a mid-high quality product and better than the Velveeta and the Kraft singles sold today!
you're wrong (1 day ago)
who else got a glass of milk while watching this
Matrix Teknologies LLC (1 day ago)
government cheese --> american cheese--> fake cheese --> disgusting taste
bubsies jensen (2 days ago)
Take a shot everytime they say cheese
manufacturedmeme (2 days ago)
cnbc u been slept on homie keep up the good work
John Doe (2 days ago)
Ninja! What do you know about gov'ment cheese?
S o c i o p a t h (2 days ago)
Turdburglartara spencer (2 days ago)
I want free food , but damnit I dont want free cheese does that make me seem ungrateful or entitled?
Savage Man (4 days ago)
Yet we still have starving people in America
t q (4 days ago)
Yes. Feed them cheese.
African Electron (4 days ago)
In South Africa cheese is nearly a luxury item
rainwolf034 (4 days ago)
We never got it, but my aunt and grandmother got it, and to be honest, I loved it.. really loved it and wish I could walk in a store and buy it.. wish the government sold it in stores because if they did I would buy it..
K ris (4 days ago)
“We are going to increase prices on food commodities to help farmers by paying them not to grow crops or destroy them!” “Isn’t that going to increase the cost of everything made with those commodities? What about the people already struggling to afford food? Seems wasteful.” “Hmmmm... right. Well, how bout this. We pay the farmers to not give us food, THEN... WAIT FOR IT... We pay the poor so they can afford food!” **blank stare** “And we’ll just increase income taxes to afford paying the farmers and the poor!”
Thomas Hammel (4 days ago)
Then why are cheese prices in the USA 2 or three times higher than the rest of world. (depending on the type of Cheese) ????
Thomas Hammel (4 days ago)
+t q I have lived in many places in the world.
t q (4 days ago)
Lmao. Thats a very odd thing to know about and care about.
jj binx (4 days ago)
Narrator sounds like max Caufield
Rev Jonathan Wint (5 days ago)
Government cheese American cheese is not even considered cheese internationally..Yuck!
lambchopxoxo (5 days ago)
I had no idea this existed. I want some.
David Kim (5 days ago)
I still get government cheese
Nunya Goddamnbusiness (5 days ago)
What is the difference is buying a farmer's excess product and just giving them money to produce nothing? The days of buying enough agricultural products to support prices and then giving those products to the poor (the USDA commodities program) sure as hell beat issuing EBT cards.
Joe Blundell (6 days ago)
Yikes, the cognitive decline issues from the beta amyloid plaques in cheese is well known from the Chicago aging project study. The alzheimer's that will be coming down the pike from that gov cheese program are going to be horrid.
早 上 好 Guerilla Gorilla (6 days ago)
Frankly, I liked it.
YodaEconomics (6 days ago)
Sounds great with tortilla or chips.
KN Park (6 days ago)
We had(or maybe still have, idk) government rice. It is like Government Cheese, but it gets as Asian as it gets.
Different (7 days ago)
Alternative headline for this video. How the US turned communist for the first and last time, and people loved it! pretty lengthy though
Jason Rhodes (7 days ago)
The only way to bring back small farms is to make dairy farming more profitable. Almost all farms are family owned weather they milk 50 cows or 1000. The reason why farms are getting big is because that's almost the only way farmers can make it. Almost every one of those farmers who have large dairies would much rather have a small farm if they could make a living doing it. I know this because I am a farmer and I know a lot of farmers. The extremely poor market also drives away most young people who are the future of farming. Kids don't want to work for money especially not a job as tough as farming. People think we have corporate farms now. Wait 10 years when all the farmers and small farm businesses are gone. Then you will know what corporate farming is.
John Simmons (7 days ago)
wish I had some now,grandma used to use it all the time.
Guitars and Games (8 days ago)
I was between 4 and 14 in the 80s, and my dad was in the Army. We ate a LOT of gov cheese. I still miss it. :p
Fernando Ramirez (8 days ago)
Government Whey protein anybody
Therrydicule (8 days ago)
That's actually a good program. Keep it. I would be proud of feeding poor people all over the world.
Christian Prepper (8 days ago)
*"Subsidies" is stealing from the middle class to give to the rich.*
Jason Lovi (9 days ago)
Shouldn’t they be wearing gloves?
Vntg Vxn (9 days ago)
I miss government cheese ,that stuff was awesome! Best grilled cheese sandwiches ever! !
Julian Nikolay Krogh-Fredriksen (9 days ago)
Hilarious how most farmers are all "government keep their hands off" when it comes to politics, though.
Dam Big Foot (9 days ago)
Its pretty optimistic to think that during the time of a food shortage that this stored cheese will be handed out to starving citizens. This is only another option for the government and elite to survive, just like those seeds in Antarctica.
Fell Man (9 days ago)
I remember seeing an episode of Johnny Test where Johnny saw a commercial where a guy said "The government will pay you to eat cheese!" and I was like "What? What are they referencing?" So this is what that show was talking about.
Luke Song (9 days ago)
When I lived in Seoul, South Korea... My dad worked with the American army and he brought a lot of this block cheese. This was when Korea didn't have much cheese or was super expensive. We ate it by the ton... So, I have fond memories of government cheese!!!
iWhisperASMR (10 days ago)
Wait... this isn't Vox???
Voting for Bill Weld - Republican Primary (10 days ago)
I just got a long box of government cheese from the Food Bank. I'm thankful for any food I can get!
joe tiller (10 days ago)
I used to pick up and haul cheese for the school system I tell you that was the best cheese you get.
deric rosales (10 days ago)
That cheese was the best to make sandwiches, I would pay 20.00 a block if I could find that cheese now.
mr.pepper plays (10 days ago)
What I love money trees but had no idea what that lyric meant. Mind blown 🤯
mr.pepper plays (10 days ago)
commie nazi (10 days ago)
That feeling when your church gives you government cheese and you feel like white trash now
nero wulfee92 (10 days ago)
Since when lots of cheese is a problem?
Jacob Garcia (11 days ago)
Stop give out money and start giving out food 👍🏻
Max Falto (11 days ago)
Reagan looked so happy there. If I had a block of cheese that big I would be happy too. One gov program I would like to see revived.
Inmate 8101 (11 days ago)
why don't we have normal news like this. stating facts and not just peoples opinions. if normal news was facts i would watch the news again.
Phillip Lopez (11 days ago)
Perhaps Mr Trump could use the " cheese " to build his " wall "
Chandra Napier (11 days ago)
Though I’ve heard of government cheese, it was in name only. I thought it was another term for government welfare money or food stamps.
Dirty Bubble (12 days ago)
maybe eating massive amounts of cheese is bad for brain health
Adam Bartlett (12 days ago)
Who in their right mind does not want cheese, cheese is great... In fact, I'm going to fry up some cheese & eat right now cause I've watched too much cheese;p Adam Adam
Richard Smith (12 days ago)
Government cheese was amazing! The closest thing you can get to it is velvetta. I miss it.
George McGovern (12 days ago)
Who doesn't want tasty cheese??
Nunya Biness (13 days ago)
Maybe these guys don’t want cheese? Beggars can’t be choosers.
Grant L (13 days ago)
Why don't they just label this video to reflect what it is, a case study in how government interference distorts markets.
Robert Ortiz (13 days ago)
My grandparents told me about this. They saw fields being burned to the ground because of price control. We are overdue for another round of this.
Ann Anderson (13 days ago)
When my children were young I used to get that cheese. It was awesome! Could only get it at the food pantry.
Chris Namaste (13 days ago)
More cheese equals more childhood obesity and more saturated fat clogging the elderly arteries and driving up medical costs. A subsidy that should be phased out.
deeppers69 (14 days ago)
So it’s velveta?
Fleece Johnson (14 days ago)
It made fantastic grilled cheese sammiches
RondelayAOK (15 days ago)
My grandmother used to buy this stuff from her cleaning lady. Yeah, it was set up to ensure a steady food supply, from farmers to stores to you.
John M. Brown (15 days ago)
I don't care what anyone says I liked it.
Leviathis Krade (16 days ago)
we are good at making stuff, but maybe we are making a "little" more than we know what to do with. *a g-man slowly hides 22 million pounds of cheese behind a curtain.
Drinking Sake With Neo (16 days ago)
So is it like velveeta?
Ezekiel Nutter (16 days ago)
This stuff was soooo common the the Rez.
Will Howard (16 days ago)
My mom gave me an extra block she had, this week. Sitting in fridge. Thinking of using in nachos and soup.
Hunter Ventures (17 days ago)
you dont want cheese poor dude, then go away and starve
Don't Trip (17 days ago)
I want some Government Cheese now
Eugene Mitchell (17 days ago)
Loved it, my inlaws got it all the time from the church then gave it to us. We had blocks of it in the freezer. Made the best cheese based foods plus things people didn't think of. A favorite was homemade cheese bread.I made some a few months ago but had to buy the cheese. It was good but just not the same.
Captain Obscurity (17 days ago)
Now I finally get that joke from Everybody Hates Chris.
Waffle Nation (17 days ago)
Government cheese :triple x: guns
jay long (18 days ago)
Where do you buy government cheese holyshit lol
ColoniaAgrippinaRex (18 days ago)
Narrator sounds like Maureen from the regular show.
Nick Keith (18 days ago)
Government cheese back at the food banks in Colorado.... gross... been lots of excess pork and milk lately... since Trump got into office and started hurting farmers
Nub Ogrodowy (18 days ago)
At least it was a REAL cheese am i correct?
Jason C. (18 days ago)
Strangely government cheese was good quality.
T.R. Plume (18 days ago)
American farmers are quintessential socialists living off the Government.
PARADOXICLES (18 days ago)
so, its Velvita.
Ser Garlan Tyrell (18 days ago)
So that's what they were talking about in XXX 2...
Neo Theone (18 days ago)
Seems like free boot video from VOX
SellerThink (18 days ago)
Cheese Please! Send me 1 ton of that free cave wasting away cheese.
Jeremy Bennett (18 days ago)
very interesting and informative
Clyde Chandler (19 days ago)
That government cheese Made the best dam grilled cheese sandwich there is
Ava Martin (19 days ago)
I’d eat more cheese and milk if I wasn’t lactose intolerant
Johnny Schmegma (19 days ago)
vox clone
Dorothy Crawley (19 days ago)
I heard that government cheese was some good s**t in the 80s..I missed out..I was overseas back then..My relatives said they cooked up some good grill cheese sandwiches back then..Dang!!..I missed out..
Arcrombie (19 days ago)
It looks like a normal block of cheese to me.
Stryyde (20 days ago)
wait that looks like a block of velvetta cheese lol.
tecums3h (20 days ago)
Ronnie wax.
SkyRaider (20 days ago)
Send it to here Indonesia please. Here cheese is so darn expensive. I will grateful accept this.
Puck aNm (20 days ago)
Time for a Grilled Cheese Sandwich.
Sherry Nash (20 days ago)
I loved government cheese! 😍