Gov. Noem implores farmers to seek help if needed, wants to reopen Smithfield plant quickly


PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Hours after the Centers for Disease released its report on the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls, Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) said she is focused on helping the plant reopen as safely and quickly as possible. 

During Thursday’s media briefing on the COVID-19 response in South Dakota, Noem said the South Dakota Department of Health will continue to work with Smithfield. The SD DOH confirmed more than 801 workers have tested positive; 206 COVID-19 cases have also been connected to the plant, as of Thursday. At least two deaths have also been connected to the plant. The CDC report called for Smithfield Foods to make significant changes. 

Noem said she wanted to speak directly to farmers and ranchers, making it clear COVID-19 has created new challenges for them. 

“You can talk to someone, deal with anxiety, or lack of hope, you do not have to go through this alone,” Noem said.

Noem pointed to resources and encouraged farmers to even reach out to her personally.

Avera Health also has a free, 24/7, confidential Farm and Rural Stress Hotline at 1-800-691-4336. 

Noem said South Dakota’s sales tax and video lottery revenues have taken large hits from the pandemic. She is expecting big losses and noted the money approved by the federal government can’t be used to make up for lost revenue. She said Congress is forcing her to spend money in areas she says are not necessary. 

Noem said the federal government should let states that have been responsible to allow more flexibility with federal relief money.  

In closing her opening remarks, Noem highlighted a story that ran on KELOLAND News Wednesday night about Avera McKennan having a record 16 babies delivered in one day. 

On the Park Jefferson decision to not allow fans on Saturday, Noem said she wanted to thank race officials for the decision not to allow fans. She said she did not force any decision upon them.

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