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State Issues $942K Tax Break to Secret Dairy in Walworth County

More money is flowing out of Pierre in secret. Bob Mercer reports that the state Board of Economic Development approved handing $941,962 from the public coffers Wednesday to a company about which the public knows nothing:

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development wouldn’t reveal further details Thursday morning for a new business in South Dakota that received approval earlier this week of a nearly $1 million reinvestment payment as reimbursement for state tax paid on the project.

This wasn’t unusual, according to the office’s spokeswoman.

“EnviroFarm SDI is going through the permitting process right now and will be filing all of their official paperwork very soon,” Natalie Likness said in an email Thursday.

“It is not uncommon for the Board of Economic Development to approve funds before a company has filed its official documents with the Secretary of State’s office,” Likness continued. “As long as we have it on good faith that it’s in the process, the board will proceed as usual, regardless of the loan or grant up for approval” [Bob Mercer, “S.D. Board OK’d Tax Break for Secret Business,” KELO-TV, 2020.01.16].

Not unusual to give out secret tax breaks? Good grief—Governor Noem can’t do anything original, can she?

Mercer did get Likness to EnviroFarm SDI is apparently behind the next big CAFO, a dairy in Walworth County. The Walworth County Commission did amend and approve a permit last week for a 2,400-head dairy and cheese plant “between Selby and Bowdle about 2 miles west of the Edmunds County line on the south side of U.S. Highway 12.” That application came from Maurice Hoffman of Bowdle. We’ll have to see if he turns out to be EnviroFarms SDI or if this secret beneficiary of our corporate-socialist largesse is a separate entity bringing bigger aromas to Walworth County.


  1. mike from iowa 2020-01-17 08:27

    The largest milk producer and on of the next largest milk producers filed bankruptcy since last summer. Dean’s foods and Borden. Do we really need more dairies?

  2. Troy 2020-01-17 11:20

    First, its not secret if they disclose their approval.

    Second, if your beef is they approved it based on information to be disclosed in normal course, I suppose they could have waited (which means you’d know less than you do now) until the information is disclosed to the public.

    So, explain to me why you think this serves your purpose to know less now and know more at a later date?

    I get you don’t like CAFO’s. I get that you like to take shots at them whenever you can. But, stringing this together as a shot is really goofy and petty. Just saying.

    BTW Mike, Dean Foods and Borden aren’t dairy farms. Dean and Borden purchase raw milk from dairy farms and make it into products we buy in the grocery store.

  3. Donald Pay 2020-01-17 11:37

    Troy’s definition of “not secret” is what you would expect of a Republican apparatchik. As long as the special interests, the corrupt leaders and the weaselly apparatchiks make a sleazy deal in some back room of brothel then it isn’t prostitution as long as they disclose their approval. Then Troy comes along to wash the sheets.

  4. Kathy Tyler 2020-01-17 11:45

    As for the payout, I wish someone had the funds to challenge this bribery in court. And, yes it bribery. The producer is paying the county funds to approve the dairy. Now if I paid them to not approve it, you would be visiting me in jail.

  5. Troy 2020-01-17 12:52


    As you know, there are application processes and almost never is anything discussed publicly until it is conforming to the law and administrative rules. It was that way when you were in State Government as well. And, then you were that back room as staff.

    Even then, this CAFO doesn’t get its final approval until after the work is done at the state level there is a great deal of local approvals that are required, including public hearings.

    Agreeing or disagreeing with with the legality of CAFO’s I get. I also get agreeing or disagreeing with the conditions for approval. Those are legitimate discussions. What you’ve done here makes it look like you can’t argue the policy so you impugn anyone and everyone who disagrees with you. Maybe I over-estimated you.

    But, your characterization of myself and the process and the good work of the state employees in such a manner is not becoming of you. This I know you know better.

    I thought maybe a former legislator would know better too but I guess not.

  6. mike from iowa 2020-01-17 12:54

    BTW Troy, Borden Dairy becomes second major milk … –
    Jan 6, 2020 – One of America’s oldest and largest milk producers files for bankruptcy. By Chris Isidore, CNN Business. … “Despite our numerous achievements during the past 18 months, the company continues to be impacted by the rising cost of raw milk and market challenges facing the dairy industry …

    Dean’s Foods was the largest milk “PRODUCER” because they “produced” the most milk products.If you have a problem with semantics, take it up with the author, not me.

  7. Donald Pay 2020-01-17 13:19


    I was just a lab flunky. That would have meant I got the nasty job of testing the sheets for HIV after the politicians and apparatchiks were done in the back room of the brothel. I never even got close to being in a back room.

    As soon as an application is submitted, it becomes a public record. The problem is that the public often does not know that a public record is available or that they also have a right to weigh in on the application even before it is officially announced. Other states have a disclosure system that allows the public to know about meetings/applications relatively soon after they occur.

    So, the state is sinking lots of dough into this proposal far in advance of permitting. What sort of pressure does that put on the permitting agency, you might wonder? Is the state money actually being used to fund the permitting process, too? We dealt with similar situations with the state cement plant, which was a bad air polluter in Rapid City. I can tell you the state regulators could rarely get anywhere near cleaning that plant up, and so they stop even trying.

  8. Lyle Anderson 2020-01-17 14:27

    Dean Foods and Bordens are not milk producers. They are milk processors.

  9. Troy 2020-01-17 15:03

    Donald, The State is not disbursing a single dollar prior to permitting. This is approval to be reimbursed of tax payments they make during construction. And, if I recall, they don’t get reimbursed until they are operating, which means they got all requisite permits.

  10. Donald Pay 2020-01-17 15:48

    Troy, Yes, you are right on the disbursement, but that promise leverages other dollars from banks and investors for the entity. Also, it is known by the regulators and officials who have to give the OK. So, small dairies, assuming this is a dairy operation, get to subsidize their competition, which helps the subsidized dairy put their competition and subsidizers out of business. Ain’t it great to be in the brothel? You get to screw the regulators and the competition at the same time.

    In Wisconsin had similar issues during Govenor Walker’s regime. The big guys got all these subsidies, while bankruptcies in small dairy operations have been at an all time high.

  11. Debbo 2020-01-17 16:32

    South Dakotans, that’s almost $1 mil of Your Tax Dollars going to one private company. Are you okay with that, or can you think of other, better uses for that $1 mil? Perhaps there is a use that would benefit a larger slice of the state.

  12. Aaron 2020-01-17 17:23

    Sad to say, but 2400 head isn’t even that big anymore

  13. Clyde 2020-01-18 06:03

    24 100 cow dairies get to go out of business. All of them run by South Dakota farmers and they will be replaced by a mega dairy operated by undocumented workers. Undocumented workers that won’t need to worry about ICE because of HR 5038. Their employers won’t have to worry about ICE either. Passed the House with bipartisan support but overwhelmingly Democratic.

    The revolution needs to get rid of both parties.

    BTW, who is it that gets subsidized in this country???

  14. jerry 2020-01-18 09:52

    mfi, true that on Dean and Borden. Neither of these former behemoth companies, are hands on milkers , but they are the main source of revenue for those that are. Their bankruptcy is not a good sign for milkers as now they will be put into a situation where they will be paid even less for their milker products. How many more thousands of tons of cheese can we store to provide more subsidies for an out of control dairy industry?

    If we need milk so badly, nationalize to control it and stop kidding ourselves into believing it’s anything else. If we nationalize dairy, then workers and managers can get healthcare, retirement and a future.. Who needs undocumented workers when you could then raise the wages and provide economic development on smaller dairy operations.

  15. Debbo 2020-01-18 14:32

    “BTW, who is it that gets subsidized in this country???”

    Clyde, it’s GOP redistribution of wealth to the few rich GOP pals from 90% of the rest of us.

  16. Debbo 2020-01-18 14:37

    Jerry, it’s going to get much worse for farmers. The 6 big chemical companies worldwide, think Monsanto and Syngenta and pals, want to merge into 3. Three entire chemical/seed businesses on the planet. That can’t be good for humans who’d like to avoid mutating.

    More GOP redistribution of wealth.

  17. Clyde 2020-01-19 10:29

    I agree Debbo but it’s the Dems as well. They can all be dumped into one big corporatist party. The majority of the yes votes on HR 5038 were democratic. Oh sure, some were foolish enough to believe they were doing it for humanitarian reasons but they should have known who would really benefit and its not farmers or consumer’s or immigrants.


    It will continue until those three control all of the food production top to bottom. Hell, they really do now! When ag programs are forcing the farmer to produce as much as he possibly can who benefits……Ag input suppliers and manufactures as well as the buyers of ag products while rural America continues to decline. If corn wasn’t so cheap could the corn sweetener manufacturer really compete with other sugars? Could the ethanol industry really exist?

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