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Published January 18, 2011, 10:20 AM

Restarting construction at struggling SD beef plant a good move

ABERDEEN, S.D. — The recent announcement of the resumption of construction at the problem-plagued Northern Beef Packers plant just outside Aberdeen, S.D., is good news for cattle producers, former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds and the state in general.

ABERDEEN, S.D. — The recent announcement of the resumption of construction at the problem-plagued Northern Beef Packers plant just outside Aberdeen, S.D., is good news for cattle producers, former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds and the state in general.

Rounds and plant officials announced in December that construction of the facility, which has been in start-and-stop mode for five years, is resuming full-speed with a projected summer completion date.

Economic affect

The numbers associated with the facility are staggering: $70 million to construct, a campus of 662,500 square feet, up to 560 employees, $22 million in projected payroll, 7,500 head of slaughtered cattle each week and 390,000 head of slaughtered cattle per year.

Option for producers

For producers, it’s another buyer for their cattle, and one that’s closer to home. It also is an opportunity to capitalize on the long-dormant but potential-filled South Dakota Certified Beef program, which could make quality South Dakota bred, born, fed and slaughtered beef a worldwide brand.

For Rounds, who is term limited and has just left office, it’s a potential last-minute legacy builder. Until the announcement, the primary legacy project of the Rounds administration was the conversion of the old Homestake gold mine to an underground science laboratory. The Aberdeen plant adds another major project to Rounds’ list of achievements.

Uncertainties

The future for both the underground lab and the beef plant is uncertain; that’s the nature of bold, risky ventures.

But if things work out the way Rounds hopes, South Dakotans might look back decades from now and view Rounds’ tenure as one of great, far-reaching accomplishments.

For South Dakota in general, the Northern Beef Packers plant not only is a potential economic driver, but a point of pride. South Dakota, one of the great cattle-producing states, finally will have a major beef processing plant and no longer will have to ship so many of its cattle and profits out of state.

Perhaps the plant will fail. We cannot predict the future. For now, we congratulate Rounds and Northern Beef Packers officials for coming together to get the project moving. It’s a bold and worthwhile attempt to solidify and grow South Dakota’s agricultural sector, which is the backbone of the state’s economy.

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