Despite low milk production, American cheese output grew to 283 million pounds in September — an increase of 2.7 percent compared to year-ago levels, according to the USDA’s Dairy Products report, released last Friday.

Among the top American cheese-producing states California saw the biggest increase in production during September — up 32 percent compared to previous year levels. Cheddar cheese production in the nation’s top milk-producing state also grew — up 43 percent compared to September 2000. Strong cheese prices through most of September could be the reason for the increase in cheddar cheese production, says Phil Plourd, senior market analyst with Blimling and Associates in Cottage Grove, Wis.

Despite strong cheese output in California, American cheese output fell roughly 21 percent and 9 percent in Minnesota and Wisconsin, respectively.

The report also listed total cheese output at 646 million pounds — a decline of 1.1 percent compared to September 2000. Meanwhile, butter output totaled 88.8 million pounds in September — a 1.2-percent loss compared to year-ago levels.

USDA; Phil Plourd, Blimling and Associates