Robert Peterson will be carrying a clipboard for the foreseeable future.
Peterson is the treasurer for Smart Growth Sioux Falls, a new Municipal Ballot Question Committee officially circulating petitions for a new city ordinance that would ban any animal processing plants from being built inside city limits. He’s looking to get roughly 6,000 signatures, which is 5% of total registered Sioux Falls voters, for the question to be placed on the November 2022 ballot.
“Right now, our main concern is the Wholestone slaughterhouse project,” Peterson told KELOLAND News. “We think that it’s going to have a massive negative impact on odor around town, on water quality, on economic development, on affordable housing and any number of issues.”
Last year, Wholestone Farms announced it purchased 175 acres in Sioux Falls near Interstate 229 and Benson Road. Created in Nebraska in 2018, Wholestone Farms was eyeing the Sioux Falls site as a possible hog processing plant that would create 2,000 new jobs and would not be operational until 2025 at the earliest.
KELOLAND News has reached out to both Wholestone Farms and the South Dakota Pork Producers Council for comment about the petition. Any response will be added to this story.
Peterson said he’s had conversations with pork producers and he’s heard pork producers don’t care if a new processing plant is built within city limits or just outside city limits.
“They just want to have another option for more competition,” Peterson said. “We’re all for that.”
So far, Wholestone Farms has only purchased the land. Peterson said he believes no construction has started and no permits for the site have been brought forward. Peterson added he’s not against a new hog-processing plant, but focused only on its location and he wants Sioux Falls voters to weigh in on the issue.
“We want to see this project move forward outside of city limits,” Peterson said. “A project of this size, of this magnitude, that will have such a massive impact on the city of Sioux Falls, should be put before the voters.”
Peterson, son of former lawmaker Bill Peterson, said he’s a lifelong resident of Sioux Falls. He said he believes there’s plenty of support for the idea to ban future animal processing plants in the city.
“Residents of Sioux Falls want to see city leaders attract high skill, high wage jobs,” Peterson said. “We believe that this project serves as a barrier to being able to continue to grow the city and move into the next century.”
The possible law change would not impact existing pork plants, like Smithfield Foods near Falls Park, from operating or expanding.