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Speaker Mickelson and Former Ag Official Kostboth Run CAFO Consulting Business

Paul Kostboth and Rep. G. Mark Mickelson, panel discussion, screen cap from Contours Episode 1: "Livestock Development Part 1", SDSU Extension, posted 2015.11.09.
Paul Kostboth and Rep. G. Mark Mickelson, panel discussion, screen cap from Contours Episode 1: “Livestock Development Part 1“, SDSU Extension, posted 2015.11.09.

Ah, the smell of money….

Mark Mickelson and Paul Kostboth have been trying to make it easier to set up and expand factory feedlots—concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs—in South Dakota for years. Representative Mickelson has pushed legislation to ease zoning restrictions, and this week he threatened to make state funds harder to get for rural counties that don’t open their doors to CAFOs. Paul Kostboth worked for five years as our Department of Agriculture’s agricultural development director, in which position he mostly used state resources to promote factory feedlots:

Paul Kostboth runs the department’s county site analysis program. The department’s employees scour each county’s zoning regulations, identify sites that meet setback rules and have the utility capacity for large agricultural or industrial operations, and then reach out to the landowners nearby and ask whether they’re interested in working with investors.

Kostboth says the department hears “almost daily” from local or out-of-state investors looking to expand or establish themselves, but the state doesn’t usually have great answers for potential locations.

“South Dakota is really attractive for companies looking to develop,” Kostboth said. “What we’re trying to do is be proactive with local leaders and start those conversations earlier” [John Hult, “Money vs. Stink: S.D. Push for Huge Feedlots,” that Sioux Falls paper, 205.02.14].

Mickelson and Kostboth’s shared interests in CAFOs have brought them into the same room on multiple occasions. Kostboth testified in support of Mickelson’s pro-CAFO House Bill 1201 in February 2015. Later that year, Kostboth and Mickelson appeared in a panel discussion on livestock development hosted by SDSU Extension and broadcast in two parts on SDPB Television, in which (Part 1, around 7:22) Mickelson referred to “conversation in the Legislative hallways with Paul and his friends’s expertise” who worked as “a team and a cadre of folks” to look into ways to reduce the appeals processes available to feedlot opponents:

Kostboth left the Department of Agriculture last spring for the private sector:

SD Dept. Ag., Value-Added Finance Authority, minutes, 2017.05.25.
SD Dept. Ag., Value-Added Finance Authority, minutes, 2017.05.25.

Kostboth’s company, A1 Development Solutions, still does the same thing Kostboth was hired to do for the state, helping CAFOs set up in South Dakota:

 Development Done Right

A1 Development Solutions is a business development services firm specializing in the siting, permitting, and development of livestock and other agricultural-related facilities of all sizes.

From identifying the best sites for your specific project(s) to working with landowners, neighbors, and local and state officials throughout the entire permitting process, A1 Development Services takes the guesswork out of finding the right sites in the right locations to ensure both your company’s immediate and long-term success [A1 Development Solutions, home page, retrieved 2017.12.13].

So Kostboth left his state job promoting dairy and livestock operations (and he must have been doing a lot of work, because the state had to hire two directors, Jeremy Freking and Bryan Sanderson, to replace him) and created for himself a private job that has him doing the same work but for profit. Why does this sound familiar?

At one time [Joop] Bollen was a state employee working for the Board of Regents doing the same kind of work. But Rounds told KELOLAND News both the Board of Regents and Benda’s office asked Rounds in 2009 if the state could privatize EB-5 to be more competitive with other offices recruiting foreign investors across the country.

“What I also asked was, ‘So who’s going to do this? Because there aren’t a lot of people who understand the EB-5 program at the federal level.’ And the response I received back was Mr. Bollen, who was working for the Board of Regents, has agreed to separate himself out and do this,” Rounds said [Ben Dunsmoor, “Rounds: I Was Told Bollen Was the Man to Run EB-5,”, 2014.10.02].

“We weren’t worried about whether Mr. Bollen was privatizing or not. We were worried about whether or not the projects that needed this outside investment would have access to an office that knew what they were doing. It was not the time to go out and start somebody brand new and find out later on they didn’t know what they were doing,” Rounds said [Ben Dunsmoor, “Rounds on EB-5: ‘There Is No Conspiracy’,”, 2014.10.02].

“…it appeared that NSU and the state system didn’t have the stomach to accept the liabilities that were associated with the entrepreneurial activities they asked for and encouraged me to establish and for which I was hired” [Bollen, 2014.11.10, p. 9].

One big difference here is that when Joop Bollen privatized his EB-5 visa investment coordinator’s job, he signed a contract with himself to keep state money flowing into his pockets. There’s no sign that Kostboth’s A1 Development Solutions has any contracts with Kostboth’s former state employer.

But guess who’s partners with Kostboth at A1 Development Services?

screen cap, A1 Development Solutions "About Us—Mark Mickelson," retrieved 2017.12.13.
screen cap, A1 Development Solutions “About Us—Mark Mickelson,” retrieved 2017.12.13.

Speaker G. Mark Mickelson. The Sioux Falls legislator signed the papers incorporating A1 Development Solutions on May 3, 2017, as agent and co-organizer alongside his Sioux Falls neighbor Kostboth and listed A1’s physical address and phone as the same as his own business consulting firm, Mickelson & Company, LLC.

A1DS Contact page, screen cap 2017.12.13.
A1DS Contact page, screen cap 2017.12.13. Contact page, screen cap 2017.12.13. Contact page, screen cap 2017.12.13.

So for Speaker G. Mark Mickelson, helping CAFOs come to South Dakota isn’t just a legislative priority. It’s his job.

Folks in other states might call that a conflict of interest. But in South Dakota, we call that just another perk of being part of the club.


  1. Donald Pay 2017-12-13

    Just one more in a line of crooked South Dakota politicians using their positions of power to enrich themselves. Lock him up.

  2. mike from iowa 2017-12-13

    What does the G in mickelon’s name stand for? Greed or koch bros?

  3. Roger Cornelius 2017-12-13

    Speaker Mickelson needs to immediately recuse himself from any and all legislation relating to CAFO’s and agricultural matters that he may influence.

  4. mike from iowa 2017-12-13

    Representative Mickelson has pushed legislation to ease zoning restrictions, and this week he threatened to make state funds harder to get for rural counties that don’t open their doors to CAFOs

    Right you are, Roger. This sounds like using his government office to knowingly enrich himself and a partner and do it right out in the open. Most any other state and I’m guessing that is a felonious no-no. But we know how lax the oversight and the laws are that pertain to the party in red in North Mississippi.

  5. Rebecca 2017-12-13

    Kostboth also serves on the Minnehaha County Planning Commission.

  6. Bucko Bear 2017-12-13

    What’s the sense of holding office if you can’t make a buck or two from it ??

  7. mike from iowa 2017-12-13

    Watch it, Bucko Bear. Old Grouch will get you for that.

  8. PORTER LANSING 2017-12-13

    @IrishPat … Tell us again Powers how the statistics that support South Dakota being in the top five most corrupt (due to the lack of legislation which allows things like Mickelson’s double dipping) aren’t real. Hmmmmmmm??

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-13

    Kostboth! Planning commission! Great point, Rebecca, and another very important conflict of interest. How can one be in the business of helping CAFOs get permits and simultaneously serve on boards that decide of those CAFOs get permits?

  10. Roger Cornelius 2017-12-13

    Okay, I’ll say it.

    This revelation should cost both Mickelson and Kostboth their elected positions.

  11. Darin Larson 2017-12-13

    Cory, you can’t serve on a board that decides if CAFOs get permits if your business comes before that same board (you must recuse yourself). But Minnehaha is only one county in this state.

  12. mike from iowa 2017-12-13

    Try it subliminally, Rogerr. The decision should Kostboth their jobs.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-13

    Mike! Brilliant!

    Roger, I agree. How many voters in District 13 and Minnehaha County, respectively, do you think will see it that way?

    Darin, has Minnehaha County Planning heard any CAFO permits since May? How much land remains available for CAFOs in Minnehaha?

  14. Eve Fisher 2017-12-14

    There were reasons the SD State Legislature tossed out the South Dakota voter-approved anti-corruption measure. This is one of them.

  15. Stace Nelson 2017-12-14

    Sioux Falls wont allow residents to have a miniature pig as a pet (ducks?Chickens? Etc?); however, its okay to shove a 10,000 head CAFO next to a small community when they dont want it. The unholy marriage of government and private businesses is in fact one of the aspects of real fascism. If it involves the government? IT IS NOT “FREE-MARKET.”

  16. Stace Nelson 2017-12-14

    I forgot, great reporting Mr “H.”

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-14

    Thank you, Senator Nelson! Now don’t be late for your State-Tribal Relations meeting in an hour and a half!

    No miniature pigs in Sioux Falls? Come on, Speaker Mickelson! Let’s hear you threaten to withhold state dollars from cities if they don’t allow more livestock development.

  18. mike from iowa 2017-12-14

    Sioux Falls allowed a member of the lege to have vicious dogs and they attacked a woman and a police officer. Like to see a mini-pig do that. I have seen vicious chickens before.

  19. Dana P 2017-12-14

    Excellent point, Eve. And all great points by everyone, actually.

    Again, another great eye/catch from Cory.

    The corruption in this state is sickening. While Gov D inacts regressive taxation in his state and refuses to expand Medicaid, with a straight face he will blame the Amazons and the healthcare system for the woes of the state that he is in charge of leading. All the while, there is a good ole boys club that exists in Pierre that is corrupt and enriches itself (and demeans and harasses women!!)

    Billie Sutton, and rightfully so, is running on an anti-corruption message. This is just another one to add to his ever-growing list.

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-14

    Funny you should mention our Democratic candidate for governor, Dana. Here’s Sutton’s latest tweet:


  21. Clyde 2017-12-14

    Boy would it be great to ring Sioux Falls with stinking hog houses like has been done to my small town! [In Iowa]


  22. Darin Larson 2017-12-15

    Cory, from the pictures I see Billie Sutton visited one of the places I would take you the next time you are in the neighborhood.

Comments are closed.