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Farm company opposes Sioux Falls pork processing plant

Some in Sioux Falls oppose a proposed pork processing plant Wholestone Foods says it will build on the northeast outskirts of town.

A member of the opposition group raises a lot of eyebrows. POET is the world’s largest biofuels company headquartered less than a mile from the proposed pork plant, said Joshua Shields, POET’s senior vice president for government affairs and communications. Shields said about 340 people work at the POET office in Sioux Falls.

Patrick Lalley, Mitchell Daily Republic reported that “POET Founder and CEO Jeff Broin owns a home and gated luxury development approximately 1.5 miles from the Wholestone site”.

Shields did not comment on the CEO’s home, instead saying that “we believe this project is best suited outside of the city limits.”

Citizens for a Sustainable Sioux Falls, a coalition of individuals, businesses and others opposing the construction of any “new slaughterhouses” within the city limits, recently obtained more than the roughly 6,000 signatures needed to put this on the ballot this fall. (See box for language of the ballot.)

POET is a member of the opposition group. “We believe the citizens of Sioux Falls have a right to vote on this issue,” Shields said.

POET is a private company with more than 3,000 investor farmers. The company buys corn, adds value by creating ethanol and selling that fuel on the market, as well as co-products such as distillers grain, corn oil, dry ice and more , Shields said.

The company has 33 bioethanol facilities across the United States, with plants near Chancellor, Hudson and Mitchell being among those near Sioux Falls.

Shields said his company would “never build a bioethanol plant in a major metropolitan city because of the potential impact on the surrounding community.”

The impact on property values ​​is one of POET’s concerns with the hog plant. Additionally, his company wants to protect the value of its headquarters and its ability to attract “world-class talent to live and work here,” he said. Odors, air and water quality are among POET’s concerns.

Wholestone board chairman Luke Minion says the 170 acres his company has purchased for the project are zoned for industrial use and the plot has no buildings except a factory. custom packaging in the construction phase.

The custom factory that would serve locals by harvesting local animals that can be purchased from affected pig farmers is expected to be operational in the coming months.

Minion said the effort to build the new packing plant will provide Wholestone with the opportunity to continue its largest pork plant regardless of the outcome of this fall’s election, as the ballot initiative enables the expansion and modification of existing plants.

Minion said the main plant, which is expected to be operational in about three years, is expected to harvest around 10,500 pigs per 8-hour shift, and eventually could provide 2 shifts per day, although the initial plan is one shift. per day. About 1,000 full-time positions will need to be filled, and the plant is expected to provide the community of Sioux Falls with about $1.5 billion in economic benefits each year and cost about $600 million to build.

The majority of pigs will come from company member owners, Minion said. “All the pigs will come from local breeders. It’s not like we have California owners,” he said. More than 75 of the company’s 220 farmer owners live within 80 km of the proposed plant, he said. “Wholestone is owned by hog farmers in the area: from Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska,” he said.

The Wholestone pork processing plant in Fremont, Nebraska is fully staffed, with a starting salary of $20.50, plus health insurance and other benefits. Minion said he expects that by the time the Sioux Falls plant writes its paychecks – likely in 3 years, it will pay a starting salary equal to or greater than the Fremont plant. .

The company plans to use “world-class” technology to mitigate odors, he said. “We are confident that people will see and understand that this is not a 50 year old packing plant. It’s brand new, it allows us to do better,” he says.

Glen Muller, executive director of the South Dakota Pork Producers, said some members of his organization are stakeholders in the plant, but the SDPP is not, as an organization, financially invested there.

The location, which is zoned for heavy industrial use and offers convenient access to Interstate 29 and Interstate 90, makes sense, Muller said.

“This new plant will have the latest technology to manage air quality, odor emissions, water quality, etc.,” he said.

Those complaining about the plant suggest it will be “a replica of the existing harvesting facility built in the early 1990s”, he said. “It’s like comparing a 1911 Ford car to a luxury 2022 Ford car and saying they’re similar,” he said. “A lot of false claims were being spread all over the city of Sioux Falls,” he said.

Muller said he believes some of his SD Pork Producer members buy DDG (dry distillers grains) from POET, and some of them also sell corn to the company. “There have been individuals who have expressed their frustrations to POET,” he said.

Shields, on behalf of POET, said his company has seen no impact on its ability to buy grain or sell co-products, including DDG in the region.

“Poet has always been dedicated to growing value-added agriculture, we want nothing more than success in agriculture,” he said.

Muller worries not only about the future of this factory, but about the precedent that could be set.

“Wholestone, the City of Sioux Falls, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and others have been working on this project for some time,” Muller said.

“They (Wholestone) are in compliance with zoning ordinances on this property. They met regulations in the ordinance. That could be a precedent that we don’t want to see set. When you meet the regulations but still can’t grow your business or anything else you want to do with that property,” Muller said.