RICHMOND—American cheese stocks totaled 1.35 billion pounds at the end of April, the second-highest total since 1917 and the highest April total ever, reported the American Farm Bureau Federation . U.S. dairy farmers continue to produce more milk than there is consumer demand. And with total fluid milk sales in the first quarter of 2018 down nearly 2 percent compared to prior years, more and more milk is finding its way into manufactured dairy products such as cheese. That’s great news for cheese lovers, but U.S. farmers continue to struggle. This is the fourth year of depressed milk prices due to a global oversupply of milk and lower prices overseas. In Virginia, there are about 90,000 milk cows on 615 dairy farms. The state ranks 24th in the country in terms of milk production and 14th in the number of licensed dairy operations. “Milk has a limited shelf life, but less perishable dairy products like cheese can be stored and sold later when the market conditions improve,' commented Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. 'Virginia dairy farmers primarily serve a fluid beverage market; however, their farm gate milk price is predominately driven by the price of dairy products. Summertime poses a challenge for our dairy farmers as fluid consumption dips and product supplies begin to build.' AFBF said cheese inventories generally climb during the spring and peak in July prior to the summer grilling season. It anticipates cheese inventories continuing to increase over the next two to three months. Total domestic consumption of fluid milk has dropped for six straight years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some of that gap is being made up by domestic cheese consumption, which was up 7.6 percent in 2017 from two years earlier, the USDA reported. Americans on average are eating 35 pounds annually, or twice the amount in 1980. American-style cheese stocks totaled 781.5 million pounds, down 2.8 percent from previous years. This spring marks the first time since April 2015 that American-style cheese inventories have been below the previous year’s levels. Inventory of other cheeses, including Italian and Swiss, climbed to a record 565 million pounds, up 13 percent from 2017. Media: Contact Banks at 804-290-1114.