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SD Soybean Association drops $125,000 into campaign to fight Sioux Falls slaughterhouse ban

The group's executive director says the contribution is unprecedented. The donation is included in the first campaign finance disclosure for Sioux Falls Open for Business.

Wholestone Farms overhead
Aerial view of the Wholestone Farms customer butcher shop under construction near Benson Road exit on Interstate 229 in Sioux Falls.
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The S.D. Soybean Association contributed $125,000 toward the effort to defeat a proposed ban on new slaughterhouses in the city limits, according to documents filed Wednesday, Oct. 5.

The contribution is unprecedented in the history of the organization, which represents about 580 farmers, said Jerry Schmitz, the association’s executive director.

The vote of the 12 members of the board was unanimous, Schmitz said. The board made the decision over the course of a day of discussion. The amount started lower and increased throughout the day, he said.

Jerry Schmitz.jpg
Jerry Schmitz, executive director of the South Dakota Soybean Association
Contributed

“They kept referring back to the fact that this is one of the most important issues we’ve ever been faced with,” he said.

Wednesday was the first financial disclosure filing for Sioux Falls Open for Business, the campaign committee formed to oppose the slaughterhouse ban. In total, the group took in more than $169,000 and spent just under $37,000, primarily on advertising.

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The amount of money raised signals a significant escalation with about five weeks to go until the election.

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.
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“This goes to show you how important this issue is for our ag producers and ag industry partners,” said Christine Erickson, chairperson of Open for Business. “It’s absolutely critical, as the No. 1 industry in our state, that South Dakotans know how important this issue is for the future of agriculture.”

Smart Growth Sioux Falls, the committee supporting the ban, filed its second round of disclosure documents. It showed the group raised nearly $81,000 in September. That’s on top of the approximately $93,000 they reported raising as of Aug. 31.

The group spent more than $31,000, primarily for advertising.

A total of $42,500 of the money raised in September came from individual contributions of more than $100:

  • The largest single contributor was Brian Gunderson of North Sioux City at $10,000.
  • Brothers Dan and Joe Kirby of Sioux Falls combined to give $8,000.

Another $37,000 came from entities: The largest of those donors was TCB, LLC of Sioux Falls with $10,000.
The next filing deadline is Nov. 3, which is the last report before the election. The final contribution and spending numbers are due to the city clerk’s office on Jan. 9.

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

“The outpouring of support from our neighbors in Sioux Falls continues to grow, and we’re grateful to all those who are investing their time, money, and energy to Vote Yes and Stop the Stink from new slaughterhouses,” the group’s treasurer Robert Peterson said in a statement. “With more residents contributing each day, we’re confident we will have the necessary resources to stop new slaughterhouses from stinking up our neighborhoods, guzzling up our water, or endangering our city’s future.”

The actual question before Sioux Falls voters on Nov. 8 is whether to amend city ordinances to say that no new slaughterhouses can be constructed within city limits. The issue was put on the ballot by Smart Growth in reaction to Wholestone Farms plans to build a pork processing plant in northeast Sioux Falls.

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Forty-seven individuals donated more than $100 or more to Open for Business.

The largest individual donation was $5,000 from Luke Minion, chairman of the board for Wholestone and CEO of Pipestone Holdings, a private company working with the cooperative to build the plant.

Pipestone Holdings, also contributed $10,000, the second-largest entity after the Soybean Association.

Luke Minion.jpg
Luke Minion, chairman of the board of Wholestone Farms, a farmer-owned cooperative planning to build a pork processing plant in Sioux Falls.
Contributed

“There are many people in the business community who look at this ballot and say this is not good for our city,” said Minion. “It’s more important than just Wholestone. It represents the concern that when is it going to be that the city of Sioux Falls doesn't like a soybean processing facility, or we don't like a plastics manufacturing plant, or we don't like this or we don’t like that. This case represents a very scary precedent. They are showing their concern about the broader implications.”

Erickson said the majority of the individual donations are farmers and ranchers from the region. A large portion of those are from Minnesota and Iowa, with a few from Michigan and Illinois.

Open for Business also reported about $1,400 in from about 60 unitemized contributions, which is anything less than $100.

“We will continue to raise as much as we can to get the message out,” said Erickson. “We are up against big bucks so we have to continue to raise money at a grassroots level.”

In the disclosure filing last month, Smart Growth Sioux Falls donors were led by biofuels producer POET and JDS Industries, both at $25,000.

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Todd Broin, brother of POET founder and CEO Jeff Broin, was the largest individual contributor.

Neither POET nor any immediate members of the Broin family were listed as donors in the latest report.

The presence of the Broin family in the debate has riled ag interests including commodity groups such the Soybean Association.

But the initiated measure also raised concerns among the Sioux Falls business community, including the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.

This week, the Sioux Falls Development Foundation issued a statement opposing the slaughterhouse ban.

“It doesn’t seem as though our opposition values the agriculture industry that made them a fortune,” said Erickson. “It’s unfortunate that our producers have to put in their hard-earned money to get the word out.”

At the end of the reporting period, Smart Growth reports about $60,000 cash on hand. Open for Business reports $132,000.

Read Sioux Falls Open for Business campaign finance report here .
Read Smart Growth for Sioux Falls campaign finance report here .

Patrick Lalley is the engagement editor and reporter for the Forum News Service in Sioux Falls. Reach him at plalley@forumcomm.com.
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