Noem: Vote on future Sioux Falls slaughterhouses puts projects in 'jeopardy' statewide
Governor says it's "sad" that the plan to build a new pork processing facility in Sioux Falls is on the ballot because "one person can get mad." Other businesses will be hesitant to invest in South Dakota because of the vote, she says.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota is losing new business investments because of a proposed ban on new animal slaughterhouses in the city limits of Sioux Falls, Gov. Kristi Noem said Tuesday, Aug. 30.
Sioux Falls voters will decide in November whether to approve an ordinance that would prevent any new processing facilities from opening. The question was put on the ballot by a group opposed to Wholestone Farms' plans to build a pork processing plant in Sioux Falls.
Noem said other projects have pulled out of the state because of the opposition to Wholestone’s facility, which has been in the works for several years. Wholestone followed the process and got all the necessary permits, she said.
“I think that it’s sad,” the governor said during an interview on KELO-AM radio. “You pass a ballot measure like that down here, that puts every single project we do in South Dakota in jeopardy in the future. That means every company in the state from now on knows that I can meet all the requirements, I can plan, I can do everything right, and at the last minute, one person can get mad, do a ballot petition, and end my investment and my business.”
Noem didn’t say who that “one person” is, though presumably she means Jeff Broin, founder and CEO of biofuels giant POET. Forum News Service reported last week that Broin owns a hom e about 1.5 miles southeast of the Wholestone site. POET’s corporate headquarters is located in an industrial park northwest of the site and the company is one of 57 signatories to a letter to city leaders opposing the plan.
A POET spokesperson did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Bill Zortman, the host of the program on KELO-AM, raised the issue of Wholestone saying that though there had been public hearings along the way, there was little participation. “Now we got people saying not so fast in my neighborhood,” he said.
Noem said the vote sends a bad message to people who are looking to expand or start businesses in the state.
“I’ve already had other projects move out of the state, saying they are not coming because of the Wholestone issue,” Noem said. “We had one family decide not to do a new manufacturing plant, a food manufacturing plant, in South Dakota because they said we don’t want a battle like that to be our family legacy.”
The letter to Mayor Paul TenHaken and the city council was from a group called Citizens for a Sustainable Sioux Falls. That nonprofit organization spawned a petition committee called Smart Growth Sioux Falls, which gathered 10,000 voter signatures to put the issue on the ballot in November.
In the interview on Tuesday, Noem said she recognizes that she’s not a city resident and therefore has no vote.
“It is a decision that Sioux Falls will make,” she said. “It’s on the ballot and people will vote on it. They will decide what the future looks like.”
Noem reinforced Wholestone’s position that residents shouldn’t confuse what is planned with the existing Smithfield processing plant, which opened in 1911.
“The fact is that the new facility would be much more advanced, would not have the water quality issues, would not have the smell issues that you see coming out of Smithfield, would just be a completely different deal,” she said. “You’re talking apples and oranges and I think Sioux Falls should have all their facts before they make a decision.”
Robert Peterson, the treasurer of Smart Growth Sioux Falls, also focused on the facts surrounding the vote, though with a different interpretation.
“We’re grateful that Gov. Noem understands the importance of this issue being decided at the local level,” Peterson said in a statement. “We also agree with the governor that voters should look at the facts, and the facts are more slaughterhouses within city limits will increase odor and truck traffic, and will only compound Sioux Falls’ water supply and wastewater problems.”
The Wholestone site is near the intersection of interstates 229 and 90 in northeast Sioux Falls. The area is zoned for industrial use and is currently home to a concrete plant and the city’s wastewater treatment facility.
Wholestone has started construction on a custom butcher shop on the site. The company, a farmer-owned cooperative with 200 members, believes that step allows them to proceed regardless of the vote in November.
“It preserves our right to build there,” Luke Minion, chairman of the board of Wholestone, said last week. “Wholestone’s decision is made. We are building our plant. The ballot won’t change that.”