Clearing up confusion about the slaughterhouse order

SIOUX FALLS, SD (Dakota News Now) – Sioux Falls voters will decide Tuesday if the city should have an ordinance banning new slaughterhouses within city limits.

The measure revolves around the potential building of a Wholestone Farms pork processing plant in an industrial area near I-229 and Benson Road. The city is being sued by the group Smart Growth Sioux Falls, which has been accused of getting 10,000 signatures on a petition to get the measure on the ballot.

It was a mess, and not just because of mudslinging on both sides.

More than $1 million and a lot of time in the local media have been spent on making their case, but everyone admits they had to put a lot of energy into making sure voters know what their vote really means.

And on the day before the election, in case there were voters who are currently voting and may be confused, three representatives of the mayor’s office will speak.

“Constituents have been asking me a lot of questions over the last few weeks about what a ‘yes’ vote means or what a ‘no’ vote means on this,” said City Councilman Marshall Selberg. “It’s so confusing with all these words.”

So Selberg and fellow councilors Alex Jensen and Kurt Sohle went on a last-minute media blitz — well, desperate.

They are against the order, that is, they they want Wholestone here. Robert Peterson is the treasurer and lead spokesman for the group behind the Smart Growth Sioux Falls ordinance, which is trying to prevent future massacres and get voters to vote yes on the measure.

Peterson said those he spoke with were also confused about the wording of the order.

“So we’ve focused almost exclusively on educating voters about what a yes vote means to ban new slaughterhouses,” Peterson said.

You’ve probably seen the Bad Smell ads. A piece of them is shown in the video at the top of this article. They focus on claims that bringing new slaughterhouses to Sioux Falls will cause foul odors and pollute Sioux Falls’ water quality.

Peterson said the ads helped dispel confusion behind the “yes” vote and also helped local media, which helped it get the “no” vote and the attention of those in favor of the kill.

“The ad campaigns we’ve seen from Wholestone’s competitors, while being creative, may shed some light on the facts,” Selberg said.

To that, Peterson said, “Everything we say is 100% sourced, 100% factual, and 100% true. We are the only campaign founded by people who live, work, and work in Sioux Falls. we made sure to do our homework, our research, and we brought it. We brought it to the city commission. We brought our concerns to the city council and they got away with it. And many times they went away.”

The three councils will not consider the current lawsuit, filed in September, in which Smart Growth is suing the city of Sioux Falls after the council cut the ribbon last month to build a butcher shop on Wholestone Farms land. was allowed. . A judge later ruled that the permits were issued illegally, allowing voters to decide on the slaughterhouse ordinance before going to court.

Meanwhile, Dakota News Now asked both councils how they find the “Stop the Smell” ads misleading and gave Peterson a chance to respond to the allegations.

Bad smell claims

Deputy City Councilor Alex Jensen pointed to clothespins pinching speakers’ noses in the “Yes, It’s Less” and “Stink” commercials, funded by Smart Growth. Claiming the pork processing plant will leave a bad smell is misleading voters, he said.

“If you go more than half a mile from where this project is, there’s a water reclamation project for the city of Sioux Falls,” Jensen said. “Every day, 200,000 people flush the toilet in this city. Garbage goes there and melioration is done there.”

Peterson said the statement “makes no sense.”

“There won’t be a heavy smell because of the wastewater treatment plant,” Peterson said. “It’s going to stink because it’s killing six million pigs a year, they’re producing byproducts, they’re building a whitewater sewage lagoon, and they’re transporting hundreds of trucks of live and dead animals every day.”

Jensen noted that part of the $500 million Wholestone is investing in the project, $50 million is odor reduction technology, Luke Minion, CEO of Wholestone’s parent company Pipestone Holdings, told Dakota News Now in April.

Peterson’s answer is the same now as it was then, and he referenced Minions.

“Let’s just listen to the Wholestone executives who said, ‘I can’t promise it’ll never smell.’ And they’re right. They can’t promise it’ll never smell. That’s why they talk about mitigation instead of elimination.

Asked Monday by the Dakota News now if he and Wholestone Farms can guarantee there will never be an odor from the new plant, Sohle said, “There are no guarantees in life.”

But he followed up that statement by recalling a visit to the Prestage Farms plant in Eagle Grove, Iowa, a plant that is similar to what Wholestone said is state-of-the-art.

“There’s no smell outside,” Sohle said. “This is my personal observation. If people really want to know, they should go there and see it.”

The issue of water supply

Peterson noted that residents of Mason City, Iowa rejected a Prestage venture, so it ended up in Eagle Grove.

“The idea that our opponents are pushing is that (Wholestone) should be located here, there’s no other place that this mega-slaughterhouse can be located, that it can’t be located outside the city limits, just is a lie.”

Back in October, Wholestone supporters told Dakota News Now that they made the claim.

“If it’s not here, it’s not going to happen,” said Christine Erickson, president of Sioux Falls Open for Business, the group behind the Vote No campaign.

“I will tell you that I talked with the regional commissioners. They do not have the infrastructure to be able to have wastewater treatment plants to treat the wastewater. We have this technology in Sioux Falls, and our city has been very proactive in making sure we’re connected to Lewis and Clark (the water treatment system) so we have enough water. “

Three million gallons of water are needed each day to treat waste from a hog processing plant.

“There’s no doubt that Wholestone draws three million gallons of water a day, putting pressure on the city’s water supply and reducing water for the residents of Sioux Falls. Three million gallons a day. That’s about 32,000 residents of Sioux Falls. And when If we give this water to pigs instead of people, we are putting our future growth in serious jeopardy.”

“That’s not the case,” Jenson said, referring to the city of Sioux Falls’ investment in the Lewis and Clark system less than a year ago.

“There is community testimony that (the system) will provide water for decades to come,” Jensen said. “Look, we’ve had water for 30 years.”

Water pollution claims

Part of the “Vote Yes” campaign told voters that rejecting future slaughterhouses means you’re voting “yes” for clean water. Peterson and other supporters of the ordinance said it would jeopardize the water quality of the Sioux River.

“There’s no question that dumping three million gallons of wastewater into the Great Sioux River — one million of which is pig feces, blood, bile, and anything else with pigs — will absolutely degrade the quality of our river.”

Jensen said the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources “regulates this the same way they regulate any industry that’s ever been allowed to use the Sioux River. If they’re a bad member of the community, they’re going to be fined.”

Peterson said the fines had “absolutely no effect.”

“We’ve seen how effective they’ve been in the past,” Peterson said. “They stop companies from continuing to pollute the river.”

Peterson noted that the Great Sioux River received an “F” rating in 2021 for total suspended solids (TSS) and E. coli levels. Grades are determined by scores and trends from impoundment data from the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which divides river sections.

In response, Jensen noted that Friends of the Great Sioux River, a group that conducts weekly water quality testing and whose mission is to “protect and restore the Great Sioux River and its watershed, improve water quality and educate our community.” bringing the moral of protection” – was neutral in relation to the order of the slaughterhouse.

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Proponents of the language command – who do no want Wholestone or any future slaughterhouses to be built within the city limits of Sioux Falls – claim they are fighting for air quality and water quality.

But their campaign is also a response to opponents of the ordinance, who worry that a “yes” vote will prevail and the ordinance will drive future businesses away from coming to Sioux Falls, a line echoed by Gov. Christy Noem. during the summer.

On Tuesday, Selberg laughed about how the “Yes” messaging is muted in the “Vote Yes” campaign.

“I agree that ‘yes’ means less,” Selberg said. “Well, I agree, yes, because it means 1,000 jobs, $500 million less in construction, millions in economic revenue both in agriculture and in our local economy. It means less damage to our reputation in Sioux Falls. . When people come to start a business in the future, they’re going to look at this example and say, ‘Here’s a company that’s been following the rules for four years, but we’re going to pull the rug out from under them. ?”

In a speech at the Rotary Club of Downtown Sioux Falls two weeks ago, Brendan Johnson, legal counsel for Smart Growth Sioux Falls, said that view is overblown.

“It’s not a situation where we suddenly say, ‘Oh my gosh, I was thinking of bringing my new tech company or my warehouse to Sioux Falls, but gosh, they stopped it.’ 6 million pig slaughterhouses, what does that mean for me? Johnson said. “Come on. It’s not the same.”

“What we are looking for is that if we want to continue to attract business, if we want to continue to attract young professionals, maybe the best thing is not to put all our eggs in a piggery of six million pigs a year I think it’s a commercial point of view. Some people disagree with me, and that’s fine. We’ll let the voters decide.”

In response to this, Sohl, the head of the city council, said: “People who don’t want the slaughterhouse can spin it any way they want. We just have one guy who doesn’t want to look at it, and he’s spent millions of dollars on this campaign. I don’t agree with that.”

The beach points to POET director Jeff Broin, who lives near the proposed Wholestone Farms landscape. The latest campaign finance report released by the city clerk’s office shows the biofuel company gave more than $1 million to Smart Growth Sioux Falls’ campaign to ban new slaughterhouses within city limits. This is the largest donation ever given to either side of the order’s struggle.

When asked about the claim that the command is about a powerful person, Peterson offered this:

“This is about more than 50 companies that have signed the letter to the City Council. That’s about 10,000 residents who signed a petition to put the ordinance on the ballot.”

A reminder if you care enough to read this issue in this article:

“Yes” means “no” on future slaughterhouses within the city limits.

“No” means “yes” to building the Wholestone Farms plant and possibly others.

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