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Vaccine dry ice demands could impact Wisconsin’s signature cheese industry



Image by Alexey Klen from Pixabay

Among the latest supply chain concerns in the COVID-19 pandemic is the need for dry ice to help distribute vaccines. 

Used commonly in food production and packaging, dry ice is closely connected to key agriculture industries for Wisconsin such as ethanol and cheese.

Carbon dioxide, a key ingredient for dry ice production, is a co-product of ethanol production. That industry felt the negative effects of COVID-19 as fewer people were traveling, and some plants even closed production, according to Randy Romanski, secretary-designee for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. 

On Wednesday, Gov. Tony Evers gave $3.25 million to the ethanol industry through CARES Act Funding to help recover some of those losses and continue production. 

For cheesemakers, dry ice is a critical component used to maintain appropriate temperatures for cultures. Romanski said his office has been working closely with industry partners, such as the Wisconsin Cheesemakers Association, as well as U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, to avoid dry ice supply issues. 

“Pfizer has said that they are going to require an additional two tons of dry ice daily,” Romanski said. “Right now, it is our understanding that they have plans to produce and distribute dry ice from one of their existing facilities.”

He added dry ice manufacturers have plans to help prioritize essential customer needs in addition to making sure dry ice is available for vaccine distribution. 

“It’s our understanding of the dairy industry is considered one of those essential customers,” Romanski said.

Dry ice manufacturers also expressed the ability to ramp up production if necessary. 

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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