Poet donates $1M to defeat Wholestone pork plant

Sioux Falls, S.D.-based biofuels company POET has donated more than $1 million to oppose the Wholestone Farms pork plant in the city, according to campaign disclosure reports in the Argus Leader.

The reports show that POET donated $1,080,950 to Smart Growth Sioux Falls, the opposition group that has spearheaded a ballot initiative to stop the plant’s construction. If the initiative wins voter approval on the Nov. 8 midterm ballot, Sioux Falls will not allow any new construction of meat processing plants.

The records also showed a $10,000 donation from Robert Casper, POET’s chief commercial officer. Earlier reports noted a different $10,000 donation from Todd Broin — brother of POET CEO Jeff Broin — who owns a home in a gated community that is “less than two miles” from the prospective Wholestone site.

“Let the people decide”
In an e-mailed response to Argus Leader, POET stated, “We cannot in good conscience stand by and watch as new slaughterhouses jeopardize the quality of life for our team members, our families, and our more than 200,000 neighbors who live and work in this community. It’s time to let the people decide.”

Argus Leader noted that Smart Growth Sioux Falls spent $1,120,750 in advertising between Oct. 5 and Nov. 3, and the group still has $29,604.62 to spend.

Sioux Falls Open For Business, a group that is opposing the ballot initiative, has also raised significant amounts of money. South Dakota Pork donated $175,000, while both Iowa Pork Producer’s Association and Minnesota Pork Producers donated $50,000. South Dakota Soybean Association chipped in $125,000.

The group spent $322,917.64 on advertising, with $107,602.23 left. Christine Erickson, who chairs the group, told the Argus Leader that “ It’s stunning POET would seek to block progress in Sioux Falls by opposing a clean, modern, state of the art agricultural facility.”

Both Smithfield Foods and Friends of the Big Sioux River have declined involvement in the dispute.