Special Olympics reverses opposition to Wholestone pork plant in Sioux Falls
"I screwed up," the organization's president says. Sioux Falls residents will vote in November on new slaughterhouses in the city. Wholestone officials believe the ballot question won't stop their plans to build new plant.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The Special Olympics of South Dakota has rescinded its support for a ballot initiative that would ban all future slaughterhouses in Sioux Falls.
The organization was among 57 businesses and nonprofits listed in an open letter to Mayor Paul TenHaken and the Sioux Falls City Council in April. The letter, from the group Citizens for a Sustainable Sioux Falls, asked city leaders to pause the construction of the Wholestone Foods pork processing plant in northeast Sioux Falls.
“I screwed up,” Darryl Nordquist, the group’s president and CEO, told Forum News Service. “The Special Olympics shouldn’t have an opinion either way, politically.”
Nordquist said he was approached to support the effort because of the potential for odor at their office about 2 miles northwest of the Wholestone site. But after the letter was released in April, an area farmer involved with the Special Olympics reached out to him to talk about the plant.
“It’s not going to be that smelly,” he said. “I’m not against it now. It’s better for the farmers.”
Smart Growth Sioux Falls is the name of the ballot committee for the group that sent the letter. They gathered signatures to put the issue on the November ballot. If passed, the initiative would prohibit any new slaughterhouses from building in the city limits.
Robert Peterson, treasurer for Smart Growth Sioux Falls, said they have no intention of causing the Special Olympics any problems so he understands if they need to step away.
“Our effort isn’t about any one organization or business," Peterson said. "Opposition to new slaughterhouses within our city is growing each day. We had more than 10,000 citizens sign a petition to put the question to voters this fall, and more residents are asking how they can stop these projects from ruining our quality of life.”
The group isn’t against the Wholestone project, just where it’s located, he said.
“Proponents are trying to paint us into an anti-development, anti-ag position,” he said. “We’re pro value-added and pro this project, just in a different location, outside the city limits.”
Wholestone Foods is a cooperative owned by 200 farmers, including about 75 within 50 miles of Sioux Falls. The cooperative was formed in 2018 and purchased an existing plant in Fremont, Nebraska.
Luke Minion, chairman of the board of Wholestone, said the company has been talking to early opponents to try and alleviate concerns about the plant, which will process about 6 million pigs a year. The common perception of a pork processor is the 111-year-old Smithfield facility near Falls Park.
Technology has come a long way in a century, Minion said. The Wholestone plant will be built from the ground up, which means the latest technology for reducing odor and wastewater will be treated on site.
“A new plant is better, locally owned is great,” he said “When people take the time to learn about it, we find that people who have been approached have had second thoughts.”
Wholestone believes that regardless of the outcome of the vote, their plans will go forward because they are already building a custom butchery on the site, which is east of Interstate 229, near the exit for Benson Road.
“It preserves our right to build there,” Minion said. “Wholestone’s decision is made. We are building our plant. The ballot won’t change that.”