WASHINGTON (B)--U.S. Department of Agriculture announced March 20 it has purchased about 800,000 pounds of U.S. cheese, valued at about $1 million, in order to help support U.S. milk prices. USDA said the cheese will be distributed domestically as food assistance for programs such as the National School Lunch Program.

"According to the 1996 Farm Bill, USDA has a standing offer to purchase butter, cheese, and nonfat dry milk at $9.90 per hundredweight to support the price of milk through calendar year 2000. This is the first time since July 1, 1997 that USDA has purchased cheese under this program," a department spokesperson said.

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