SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Glenn Muller wonders what Sioux Falls would look like without industry.
The Executive Director of the South Dakota Pork Producers Council has concerns about a new petition circulating that would ban any animal processing plants from being built inside Sioux Falls city limits. Muller, who represents the interests for more than 900 hog producers in the state, said he hasn’t seen the petition himself but he worries about a grandfather clause it would create for existing production facilities like the Smithfield Foods processing plant.
“That’s concerning to us when you start selecting different entities and saying which entity can we expand, attract and which entities are we going to put limitations on,” Muller said. “I think the free enterprise system will take care of that. I don’t know that we need to incorporate that into the petition.”
The petition is being brought forward by a new Municipal Ballot Question Committee called “Smart Growth Sioux Falls.” The group aims to get 6,000 signatures, 5% of registered Sioux Falls voters, to get the question of banning animal production plants from being built inside Sioux Falls.
Muller said the city shouldn’t be limiting one industry over the other.
“That’s very detrimental,” Muller said. “I think it sets a strong precedent that could be used in other businesses that could be very concerning for further economic development of Sioux Falls.”
The petition has started in response to Wholestone Farms, which announced in 2021 it purchased 175 acres in Sioux Falls near Interstate 229 and Benson Road for a hog processing plant. Robert Peterson, a spokesman and treasurer for Smart Growth Sioux Falls, said his organization supports the project as long as it’s built outside of city limits.
Muller said the location Wholestone Farms bought land for its new production facility makes a lot of sense.
“It’s a prime location (near) the intersection of two major interstates,” Muller said. “ So transportation in and out of the plant is going to be very valuable.”
Luke Minion, CEO of Pipestone Holdings and Chairman of the board for Wholestone Farms, said the location where Wholestone Farms ended up buying land was bought after years of working with the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the city of Sioux Falls and the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.
“(They) are absolutely suggesting that all of us are wrong and they’re right,” said Minion, who added the Smart Growth Sioux Falls group has not reached out him or anyone with Wholestone Farms. “Our view is that it’s zoned for our production, we’ve got a great design that we can reassure people that are concerned about the odor and all those issues.”
Minion said the idea of just moving the plant somewhere else doesn’t acknowledge the work put in before the land was purchased and a media announcement was held.
“We spent two-plus years looking in three-plus states,” Minion said. “We found it’s very, very difficult to find a place to build a facility like this. It needs a lot of things. It needs power, it needs water, it needs wastewater, it needs people.”
Both Minion and Muller encouraged people to reach out to Wholestone Farms to better understand their plans. He also noted Gage Brothers operates a large concrete production plant near the land Wholestone Farms purchased.
“My understanding is this property is zoned industrial,” Muller said. “So anybody that wants to build a house close by has to recognize that there will be some inconveniences that are brought by industrial development.”
Minion also cautioned about the precedent the petition would create for other businesses, noting a double standard would be created to the benefit of the existing Smithfield Foods plant.
Minion said he hopes to help communicate more directly with people who have concerns. He’d also like to see the group Citizens for a Sustainable Sioux Falls and the Smarth Growth Sioux Falls disclose who is funding the organizations.
“If you sign the petition, you’re gonna harm a local farmer,” Minion said. “Our farmers that own this project are local and you’re stopping them from moving forward with a five-plus year planning process.”
Muller called South Dakota one of the best places in the United States to raise hogs and said many new production plants have been built in Iowa. He said Wholestone Farms would use the latest technology and design to mitigate concerns for odor.
“There’s a lot of emotions involved, a lot of fear of the unknown,” Muller said. “The people in the community have this perception of what this is going to bring into their communities without doing a lot of research or contacting the individuals that are going to be building the facilities.”