SIOUX FALLS, SD — Supporters of a planned pork processing plant in Sioux Falls have launched an ad campaign in recent days aimed at derailing a November ballot initiative.
Sioux Falls Open for Business ran radio and television ads asking residents to vote against the initiative, which would ban any future slaughterhouses in the town.
Christine Erickson, chair of the Open for Business campaign committee, said more than 100 people and organizations have donated to the effort. The group has also launched a website – siouxfallsopenforbusiness.com – to detail its position and solicit contributions.
“We know we have an uphill battle,” Erickson said on Tuesday, September 27.
Wholestone Farms, a farmer-owned cooperative that wants to build a facility that could eventually process 6 million pigs a year. But in June, opponents collected 10,000 signatures to ban future slaughterhouses to voters in the city.
This vote will take place on November 8, at the same time as the national and federal elections.
Smart Growth Sioux Falls is the campaign committee formed to support the ban. This organization is supported by a collection of local businesses and organizations who are concerned about the potential for odors, water pollution and increased traffic in the area near the Benson Road exit on the Interstate 229 northeast of Sioux Falls.
So far, Smart Growth has purchased display space to get its message across, said committee treasurer Robert Peterson.
“We are confident in the strategy we have in place,” he said. “More than 10,000 local residents have signed the petition to put this ordinance on the ballot. The people of Sioux Falls are thrilled to vote yes to prevent the construction of more slaughterhouses within our city limits.
Smart Growth has raised just under $100,000 as of August 31, the most recent deadline for reporting financial contributions to the city clerk’s office.
Sioux Falls Open for Business has not yet filed financial reports because it was formed after August 31.
The next deposits will cover fundraising and expenses through September 30. Reports are due October 5.
The extent to which the slaughterhouse ban becomes a frequent topic on TV, radio and your social media feeds depends on the money available.
Both parties now have considerable potential sources of revenue.
Erickson said Open for Business focuses on raising “grassroots” funds from local and regional sources.
The group’s list of supporters includes a range of trade and agricultural associations such as pork, poultry and beef producers, grain producers and the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce. Wholestone also supports Open for Business and Erickson said others would sign.
Their claim is that the ban sets a bad precedent for businesses looking to start or expand in the city. Wholestone has been planning the operation for about five years and followed all the rules, they claim. If the city says no now, it undermines the confidence of other business leaders.
Each association decides whether it will donate as an organization, simply encourage its members to donate, or both, Erickson said.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re really focused on this grassroots effort to get this message across,” she said. “We know the challenge and the fundraising goal are high, especially when you look at the opponents and the amount of money their primary funder has.”
That primary funder, according to the first set of campaign finance disclosures, is Jeff Broin, founder and CEO of POET, the world’s largest producer of ethanol.
POET’s headquarters and Broin’s house are about a mile in either direction from the Wholestone site.
Broin’s company has contributed $25,000 to Smart Growth as of August 31. Broin’s brother, Todd, donated $10,000.
The other major funder of the ban is JDS Industries, which contributed $25,000. Founded in 1973 as JD’s House of Trophyes, JDS is today “the world’s leading supplier of award components, promotional and gifting products, signage supplies, and many other customizable products,” according to their website.