Remember all that surplus cheese that the government had stored in warehouses across the country? Well, cheese isn't the only thing Uncle Sam saves. When America's honey industry overproduces, the Agriculture Department's Commodity Credit Corp. buys the excess. Last year, it stockpiled 6 million pounds of surplus honey and this year USDA estimates it will pay $6.8 million for 12 million more pounds--a record.

The current honey glut can be traced to increased domestic production and cheap foreign imports, USDA officials said. In 1976, a study by the International Trade Commission suggested tightening restrictions on honey imports and increasing the tariffs, but nothing was done. Now, Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) is carrying the banner of the domestic honey industry. He's introduced legislation that would raise the tariff for nations with most-favored status from 1 cent per pound to 10 cents and bump the others from 3 cents to 20.

USDA says it is unlikely that any of the government's 50-pound kegs of raw honey will be distributed to the public. Most will be sent to school lunch rooms and federal prisons. What's left will be sold to companies that use honey in their products.