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POET spent more than $1 million in October in support of Sioux Falls slaughterhouse ban

Wholestone Farms supporters raised $300,000 last month, including $275,000 from regional pork groups.

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An architectural rendering of Wholestone Farm's hog processing plant planned for Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Contributed / Wholestone Farms
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Biofuels giant POET poured more than $1 million in October into the campaign to stop Wholestone Farms plans to build a pork processing plant in the city, according to reports filed Thursday, Nov. 3.

Sioux Falls voters are weighing a change in city code that would ban any future slaughterhouses. Wholestone’s opponents gathered signatures to put the question on the Tuesday, Nov. 8, ballot.

POET’s headquarters are about a mile northwest of the Wholestone site. The company’s founder and CEO, Jeff Broin, also owns a home about a mile in the other direction.

Sioux Falls Open for Business, the campaign committee supporting Wholestone and opposing the ban, is backed by a coalition of agriculture commodity groups and Sioux Falls business organizations.

Christine Erickson 1.jpg
Christine Erickson, former South Dakota lawmaker and Sioux Falls city councilor, is the chairperson of Sioux Falls Open for Business, which opposes a ballot initiative to ban new slaughterhouses in the city.
Contributed

“This massive contribution proves that this fight isn’t over a slaughterhouse, rather a rich man’s private mansion,” Christine Erickson, chairperson for Open for Business, said in a statement. “The proponents keep insisting they have broad support but this million dollar check proves otherwise. This election is as close to a one man show as any issue that has been on the ballot. It's stunning that POET would seek to block progress in Sioux Falls by opposing a clean modern state of the art agricultural facility.”

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Open for Business reported donations of nearly $300,000 in October, including $175,000 from S.D. Pork. There’s also two contributions of $50,000 from the pork producers associations in Iowa and Minnesota.

Robert Peterson
Robert Peterson, treasurer for Smart Growth Sioux Falls, which opposes new slaughterhouses in Sioux Falls.
Contributed

“We’re proud to have so much support from people who live and work in Sioux Falls, rather than outside pork groups who bankrolled 90 percent of the slaughterhouse camp’s latest push,” Robert Peterson, Smart Growth's treasurer and spokesperson, said in a statement.

The donations were revealed in campaign finance documents covering the month of October, which were filed Thursday, Nov. 3, with the Sioux Falls City Clerk's Office.The latest report brings the total price tag on the campaign to more than $1.5 million since it began in August.

Wholestone purchased land for the plant near the Benson Road exit on Interstate 229. At full capacity, the plant could process up to 6 million pigs per year. When Smart Growth began its petition drive, Wholestone announced plans for a custom butcher shop on the site.

MORE: Coverage of the Wholestone Farms slaughterhouse plan

The company believes the butcher shop qualifies as a slaughterhouse under city code, which means the outcome of the election won’t stop their plans for the much larger facility.

Smart Growth cites concerns about odor, water pollution and traffic congestion as the main reasons for opposing Wholestone.

Broin hasn’t spoken publicly about his opposition to Wholestone. But POET’s challenge of the pork plant dismayed farmers and commodity groups.

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Those groups have stepped up to finance Open for Business. In addition to the pork producers, the S.D. Soybean Association donated $125,000 in September.

The group said it has about $107,000 on hand.

Smart Growth has already spent the $1 million plus from POET, reporting $29,600 on hand.

That money was spent almost entirely on advertising.

Advertising is also the main expense of Open for Business, at nearly $323,000.

The efforts to sway voters have come through all forms of media, from television ads and social media to a barrage of direct mail pieces.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, Wholestone’s future in Sioux Falls likely will end up in court.

Smart Growth already sued the city to get permits for the butcher shop rescinded. A judge in that case said a full trial is necessary to determine whether that’s possible.

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Wholestone’s legal standing would be bolstered if voters reject the slaughterhouse ban.

If voters approve the measure, the current case likely hinges on the definition of slaughterhouse.

Wholestone is a farmer-owned cooperative based in Fremont, Nebraska. It was formed in 2018 to purchase a pork plant in Fremont, which it currently operates.

The more than 200 members of the cooperative collectively raise about 12 million pigs per year, which would also be the combined capacity of the Fremont and Sioux Falls plants running two shifts each.

Fremont isn’t there yet and Wholestone executives say it would take at least two years after opening to start a second shift in Sioux Falls.

The final campaign spending disclosures are due in January.

Patrick Lalley is the engagement editor and reporter for Sioux Falls Live. Reach him at plalley@siouxfallslive.com.
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