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Kristi Gets the Whole Story Just by Talking to Smithfield CEO

Governor Kristi Noem is criticizing the media for its harsh coverage of Smithfield Foods’ failure to protect its workers from coronavirus and its concomitant creation of the fourth-worst covid-19 hotspot in America. She doesn’t think the press is being fair to the corporate pork producer:

She defended Smithfield’s efforts to clean the Sioux Falls plant, distance workers in lunchrooms, and screen their temperature at the facility entrance, saying that media reports detailing worker’s complaints had not told the full story [“South Dakota Governor: 190 Virus Cases Tied to Pork Plant,” AP via U.S. News and World Report, 2020.04.10].

An eager reader tells me that a reporter at Noem’s briefing yesterday responded that members of the press had been trying for days to get comment from Smithfield Foods and that the corporation had refused to talk to them. Those reporters appear to have been making more of an effort to get both sides of the story, from the exploiter and exploited alike, than Noem herself was:

Noem said she had not spoken directly with the union representing workers at the plant, but had spoken with Smithfield CEO Ken Sullivan multiple times this week.

“I’m having really honest, frank conversations with Smithfield,” she said [AP, 2020.04.10].

Kristi, if you’re going to defend Smithfield Foods based on talking to no one but the CEO of Smithfield Foods, you’re probably getting and telling much less of the story than any reporter you’re chiding. You don’t get to blame the media for a public health emergency caused by Smithfield Foods’ poor corporate decisions.


  1. grudznick 2020-04-11 10:56

    The media are naught but rabble-rousers and hacks. Print media is dying, like the Aberdeen and Sioux Falls newspapers, and the T-V stations are becoming more about ads for cars and are only good for watching the sitting coms and movie channels. Who knew that the covids would kill the media as surely as it will kill the weakest of the eateries and bowling alleys in each town. I wonder if Mr. Evans will call this “The Pruning” in his memoirs written later.

  2. Jeff Barth 2020-04-11 11:08

    One would think that a “rancher” like our governor would know to close the barn door before the animals got out.
    Hey! The virus got out because we chose not to close.

  3. John 2020-04-11 11:29

    Smithfield’s poor decisions . . . AND Noem’s poor decisions! Just “talking” to a CEO is lamer than just talking to trumpy to understand COVID19 in the US. When Noem, like her pal trumpy, set off on hissyfits that’s a clear signal they are complicit, caught.
    The snow queen may pretend being a rancher but she obviously learned NOTHING about isolating, quarantining, basic biology, and truth seeking.

    They killed the Sioux Falls visitor economy through the fall. Shippers have a hard time finding drivers to haul into New York City because of the fear of contacting the virus. Now add Sioux Falls to the truckers and visitors list of places to avoid.

    The red snow queen and her minions will end up running around the state playing whack-a-virus-mole as outbreaks continue because she refused employing best practices of isolation, stay-at-home, quarantining.

  4. mike from iowa 2020-04-11 11:30

    From what i have been able to ascertain about yer guv is her ranching experience includes, and is limited to, collecting subsidies and gubmint handouts.

    drumpf’s Ametrica 1st sees America surpass Italy for the most covid-19 deaths.

  5. grudznick 2020-04-11 11:35

    Mr. E is righter than right. It was Mr. Epp, who used to be a blogger before becoming a professional reporter, who stood up for Mr. Bob after he was verbally beaten about the head and shoulders by the Governor. Mr. Epp used to champion many libbie causes on his bloggings before he became a journalist, but I’m sure now he’s a completely fair and balanced legitimate media fellow.

  6. jerry 2020-04-11 12:06

    Wonder why the governor doesn’t request more testing kits and more test capabilities for not only this plant, but for the rest of the food producers in the state from daddy trump.

    Rapid City can now do 16 per day. 80,000 folks divided by 16 would take about 14 years to test us all. That would be 24/7 just in one place. By that time, I’ll have started to shave.

    In order to defend food producers like Smithfield, the governor would have to present a plan, and that is the one thing that republicans do not have, a plan.

  7. jerry 2020-04-11 12:18

    But we did have 2,108 deaths in one day! So we better get with it to get some damn testing done…on everyone.

  8. mike from iowa 2020-04-11 12:28

    Doubt the mandarin, but it is possible she signed her pics with a Shar-pei. :)

  9. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2020-04-11 12:31

    “Brownie, I mean Kristi, you’re doing a heck of a job”…..

  10. jerry 2020-04-11 12:45

    As long as Thune is in town, why isn’t he answering questions about all of this? Why isn’t he being asked on where the tests are and what the plan is to test us all so we can all go back to work. How about Rounds, where’s that little twerp so he can also fess up to his lack of putting forth a plan of action for his country?

  11. Loren 2020-04-11 12:50

    I spent 5 years on the kill floor and I can tell you that the conversations there are a tad different than in the corporate offices! Once again, a beautiful demonstration of leading from behind.

  12. Eve Fisher 2020-04-11 12:52

    Just a reminder – everyone who is exposed to OR tests positive for COVID-19 is supposed to quarantine for 14 days. The entire Smithfield plant was exposed to COVID-19 (tell me that those 190 were kept in a separate wing and I’ll laugh until I puke), but they’re only going to close for 3 days for “deep cleaning”. I wrote to and called both Governor Noem and Mayor TenHaken, and was told by Mayor TenHaken that Smithfield is doing the best it can, and it’s an “essential industry” to preserve “food security”. So it can’t close for 14 days, and all those “other” employees will go back to work, and it will be business as usual. It’s fairly obvious to me that in 2 weeks, more or less, we will be well into the thousands of cases of COVID-19 in this state.

  13. Jeff Barth 2020-04-11 13:20

    Eve is correct.
    We’ll be in the thousands by next Saturday 4-18-2020. Especially if we attend church.

  14. jerry 2020-04-11 13:39

    Loren, as someone who has direct knowledge of the kill floor and the inner workings of Smithfield, what could be the solution to keep the place supplying food? “The US is one country without a food reserve, however, there is a financial food reserve called the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust to be used to buy from farmers in case of emergency.”

    We have what we have and that is all, so without production of this food, we would be out of pork. Is that a good thing? Who knows, but it would be a certain thing. Are we ready for that? What about other foods, we ready for that loss as well. We need a plan.

  15. Donald Pay 2020-04-11 13:43

    I think the assumption is that essential businesses get a pass. Uh, uh. They get a pass as long as they don’t manufacture disease as fast as they make wieners. Once their product becomes COVID they need to be shut down for a minimum of 14 days. Every case of COVID and every death that results from not shutting them down is on Noem and TenHaken, personally. If they are so confident of Smithfield being able to open in three days, they should be willing to put up a hefty bond to cover costs of health care for all those folks who are going to suffer from their decision. And they should be held personally responsible for the murder of any individuals who die as a result.

  16. Loren 2020-04-11 14:14

    I didn’t work for Smithfield, Jerry, but my point was that interviewing ONLY the CEO is not telling the whole story. What are the conditions and what precautions are they taking? The CEO may tell you the “plan,” but what is actually happening? How do the workers feel about he plan? Is it workable? I think we need more that the CEO’s insight. I’m not suggesting shutting down U.S. food supply.

  17. grudznick 2020-04-11 14:24

    Mr. Loren, as you know from the kill floor, workers often speak with course language and rumors slathered over a lack of medical knowledge. I, for one, am not defending the Smithfields, I think they should be put in the public square on display for all to castigate. But let us not delude ourselves that union workers want anything more than a bigger handout for less work. grudznick does believe they are entitled to a workplace safe from crawling covids, so please don’t put that upon me.

  18. Loren 2020-04-11 14:27

    That’s a damn broad brush you are using, grudz!

  19. grudznick 2020-04-11 15:05

    That is a fair, comment, Mr. Loren. I shall strive to narrow my observations, because I, too, dislike broad, all encompassing statements made by some. Thank you for calling me on it. grudznick recants.

  20. Debbo 2020-04-11 15:35

    The plants can be closed for 14 days. People can live without pork for 14 days because there are myriad sources of protein to keep diets healthy.

    As someone mentioned, why isn’t #2 taking care of his state? He ought to be in the forefront of this. He should be getting all the medical supplies this small state needs and plenty of $ via his grifting pals in the GOP to take care of the laid of workers in the plant and all the others in the chain.

    What is the value of being #2 if he doesn’t help SD? Tom Daschle made a big positive difference. #2? Nada but pretty pictures.

  21. mike from iowa 2020-04-11 15:51

    Last updated: April 11, 2020, 20:50 GMT
    United States
    Coronavirus Cases:

    Just a reminder to fools who don’t think this is a serious problem…

  22. Eve Fisher 2020-04-11 16:53

    COVID-19 cases among the Smithfield workers up to 238, and word got out that they’re not just “cleaning” this weekend. but processing (in separate areas) at the same time. In other words, they didn’t shut down even for 3 days.

    I wish they’d make it an official order, not just a “firmly worded-recommendation”. But TenHaken says they can make it an order if Smithfield doesn’t comply.

  23. jerry 2020-04-11 16:59

    TenHaken does have a police force that can force compliance, that’s what a police force does, enforce the laws.

  24. jerry 2020-04-11 17:03

    True that Debbo. I don’t eat much pork so going 14 days or 14 months without it is no big deal. Maybe that is the answer to many of our problems, shut the place down and find another food source…as long as it’s not bats. You can use soy for many meat substitutes, including pork. We seem to have a lot of soy laying around so we have plenty of that.

  25. jerry 2020-04-11 17:54

    trump says that you don’t have to report the virus at the workplace anymore.. .especially meatpacking plants. The crooks just keep crooking.

    “The Trump administration announced Friday afternoon that employers outside of the health care industry generally won’t be required to record coronavirus cases among their workers, a decision that left some workplace safety advocates incredulous.

    COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is classified as a recordable illness, meaning employers would have to notify the Occupational Safety and Health Administration when an employee gets sick from an exposure at work. But the nation’s top workplace safety agency now says the majority of U.S. employers won’t have to try to determine whether employees’ infections happened in the workplace unless it’s obvious.

    “OSHA is kidding, right?” tweeted David Michaels, who helmed OSHA throughout the presidency of Barack Obama.

    It is not a joke. OSHA, which is part of the Labor Department, released an enforcement memo Friday spelling out the recording rules.

    Employers in health care, emergency response and corrections would have to inform the agency when they become aware of a COVID-19 case that probably resulted from work. But other entities would not have to do so unless there was “objective evidence” that the transmission was work-related, or there was evidence “reasonably available to the employer” ― for example, if a whole slew of people who work right next to each other got sick.

    The rationale: Those employers outside of health care “may have difficulty making determinations about whether workers who contracted COVID-19 did so due to exposures at work,” the memo stated.

    But if employers don’t have to try to figure out whether a transmission happened in the workplace, it could leave both them and the government in the dark about emerging hotspots in places like retail stores or meatpacking plants.”

  26. Debbo 2020-04-11 18:20

    Liar-in-Chief has been enabling other liars and deceivers since he declared he was running. This latest effective deception via OSHA is merely more of the same.

  27. grudznick 2020-04-11 18:24

    Mr. jerry, can you please point us all to the laws that give Mr. Ten Haaken the ability send in the goon squads on this private business? I wish he could.

    Please show us where he has that ability. I am afraid all this libbie hatred of the government combined with screams for overreaching government goonsquadism is going to pop my head.

    Do you want government goon squads, or do you want freedom, Mr. jerry?

  28. jerry 2020-04-11 18:39

    “Municipalities have general powers, subject to other provisions of law to enforce ordinances and to prescribe penalties for violations. A municipality’s right to regulate matters within its powers by ordinance and provide penalties and imprisonment to punish violations may be granted by state statute or by constitutional provision. If no authority is given to impose penalties by an ordinance, then any such penalty is void unless the power is implied. Similarly, if a city ordinance penalty conflicts with that of the general law of the state covering the same subject, then the ordinance penalty is void. Therefore, the charter or ordinance penalty cannot exceed that of the state law[i].

    First, there must be an ordinance. Then a reading, then another reading and then… send in the police.

  29. jerry 2020-04-11 18:41

    Public safety Mr. Grudzick, To serve and to protect, that is the meaning behind the police, no?

    If they are not gonna comply with the shutdown that is needed to clean the joint up, then how are they any different from a meth cook house? We better be on it.

  30. grudznick 2020-04-11 18:54

    Mr. jerry, the police need to follow the law. Please show us all under what law the police can go “all libbie gestapo” and do this.

    Just point us to the statute. Should be easy. Then the mayor can tell the police to go do it too.

  31. jerry 2020-04-11 19:16

    I think that the only shutdown that could happen would be with the National Guard under the order from the governor. I don’t know of any Sioux Falls ordinance that would cover the knowing abuse of the public, that would be up to the city attorney. Regarding the National Guard, we saw how that all worked out with “Sue” in Hill City, it can be done by the attorney general.

  32. jerry 2020-04-11 19:49

    My guess is that they will close voluntarily to get the place cleaned up within 24 hours.

  33. grudznick 2020-04-11 19:54

    My guess is, they will send in the goon squads to shut the place down and then the same libbie media hacks and the fellows on the blogs squawking now will decry the goon squads.

    grudznick thinks the goon squads being formed today, and the assembling citizen mobs, are not going to go for naught. You can’t hold a good mob down. Not without a bigger mob.

  34. grudznick 2020-04-11 20:05

    So Mr. jerry cannot provide a statutory authority that allows the Governor, without bringing down martial law, to do what he is complaining about. Let us leave it to Mr. H to bring where the mayor or the governor could storm this private business and shut it down.

    Libbies, all, read me now and understand me later, you are calling for illegal actions by your government. Knock it off, or if grudznick was a few years younger and you weren’t all hacking and wheezing covid farms hanging out in Sioux Falls yuppie clubs that aren’t enforcing that distancing you all holler about, why grudznick would stride in there and knock a few of your fat, covidiot melons together.

  35. jerry 2020-04-11 20:24

    No statutory ordinance that I know of, but the Chinese will be good neighbors on this. I think the place will close down in 24 hours to be cleaned and sanitized. I also think the workers and the state will be comped something. Hey man, it’s Easter.

    The only thing you’ll be knocking grudz is a few tall brews ones back.

  36. Debbo 2020-04-11 20:40

    Sen. Adelstein has written a scathing FB post regarding Klueless Kristi and the Smithfield outbreak.

  37. jerry 2020-04-11 20:46

    What is the gist of it Debbo? I’m not on Facebook

  38. Moses6 2020-04-11 20:52

    Where is our three great congress people who always tell us how great we are.these three want you to work for less in S.D.while they make a 170 grand plus probably hiding in their fortresses of solitude .Whoops one chartered a jet I think . tell me boys come out and face the people. Can we do better than these three.

  39. Debbo 2020-04-11 21:23

    If this doesn’t make you think and think deeply, it is because your brain is switched off.

    It is a deeply considered essay on humanity in the light of COVID-19 and Climate Catastrophe. It is written by the man who is Winterkeeper of Yellowstone National Park.

  40. buckobear 2020-04-11 22:03

    trump is a genius! He’s managed to parley a world-wide catastrophe into a way to get rid of so many “drains on his precious economy; older people (Medicare & Social Security), Democratic voters (large cities, blue states), black people, poor people (SNAP, unemployment), immigrants and those pesky union members.
    Think of the savings in Ameros ….. soon, no one left except the rich and famous.
    When he pointed that finger at his empty head, I was sorry it wasn’t loaded.

  41. Debbo 2020-04-11 23:21

    Jerry, Sen. Adelstein is enraged at the risks taken, apparently cavalierly, with SD lives. He wrote an open letter to her, but Klueless Kristi has ignored it. He wants to know when the gov was aware of the contagion at Smithfield and why she waited till 80 were infected to act. Adelstein cannot understand why Ten Haken sounds almost cocky that SF’s infection rate has superseded Seattle’s.

    Both politicians are ignoring him, probably because they have no good answers and dislike reading about their abject failures.

    If words had heat both KK and TH would be perfectly black ash.

  42. Dave 2020-04-11 23:48

    Higher muckity mucks always run first to their counterparts for information. It’s a mural admiration society meant to lock horns and reserve decision making authority to themselves. It takes a constant uphill battle for those outside to prevail against it.

  43. mike from iowa 2020-04-12 08:44

    Here you go, Jerry….

    Stanford Adelstein
    12 hrs ·
    Has the Governor answered my open letter.

    The answer is NO.

    A better question that was raised in a call to me today.

    When did the Governor first know about the 80 cases at Smithfield? And even more, why did she not report it on the daily State page — that many of us follow carefully? Surely all of these did not occur one ONE day!

    Then a final question is from me. Does Kristi Noem care about the health of South Dakotans? Why were the people of Minnehaha and Lincoln Countie NOT warned of the danger of 80 new cases –

    Eighty!! Is she lacking in the knowledge that one case – as widely discussed in the news, TV and radio — that one case usually is spread to 10 people???

    Why, indeed was NO ONE warned? What about people from the Hills that have visited Sioux Falls, or even planning to go there, where UNLIKE Rapid City there are numerous restaurants and bars open

    The Mayor of Sioux Falls just announced (almost proudly) that his community has 182.2 infections per 100 thousand people.

    And, strangely he almost boasted “more than Seattle!

    Why, oh why has he not done what Mayor Steve Allender and our Council have done. After his exclamation it occurred to my ridiculous engineer mind we have less than 8 infections per thousand.

    In fact last night, looking at the US Census county population count, Lincoln and Minnehaha have a population of 192 thousand to Pennington’s 112 thousand. 2.24 times more, that means at 10 infection spreaders 174 more chances of
    someone getting pain, suffering or death.

    And this was hidden?? For how long?? And WHY for G-d”s name????

    Some surprise holiday gift from the Mayor and Governor, I suppose.

    Stan Adelstein – finish my third week in isolation in Keystone yesterday.

  44. John 2020-04-12 09:02

    Good grief. The governor and her buddy mayor are acting like fools “asking” Smithfield to close. It’s as stupid as a local community “asking” its doctor to stop raping women patients — for fear of losing the town’s doctor. (It’s happened in more than 1 rural community.) If Smithfield, similar to a raping doctor, cannot be a responsible actor, then yes, we’re better off without them.

    The governor and mayor have existing statues and legal precedents to close Smithfield. It is ridiculous the governor and mayor resort to public “begging” to t r y getting the right thing done. Statues in nuisance, public health, and disease law and other legal precedents exist to close the plant. Noem and the mayor have teams of lawyers to figure this out, if only asked. Noem needs to act like a governor and govern. Weak does not begin describing her almost non-existent approaches.

  45. John 2020-04-12 09:16

    Someone must primary this non-governor. Running a “good” democrat proves being not enough in this regressive state. Noem needs being put out to pasture. She’s woefully not up to the task and its challenges.

  46. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-04-12 09:30

    The point about the need for all exposed to self-isolate for fourteen days is huge. Smithfield must send all of its workers home for two weeks and stay closed. Food security means we’ll have to ship our hogs to a plant that hasn’t seen its entire workforce exposed for days on end to coronavirus.

  47. Nick Nemec 2020-04-12 09:32

    The mayor could simply fast track some much, needed long deferred street maintence on all the streets leading to the Smithfield plant. This might take two or three weeks.

  48. Nick Nemec 2020-04-12 09:39

    While meat packing might, on the whole, be an essential industry the closure of any one plant will not cause the collapse of the US food supply chain. That kind of talk is foolish. What might cause the collapse of the food supply chain or more likely the collapse of Smithfield Industries is loss of consumer confidence in the food supply chain or the safety of Smithfield products.

  49. Eve Fisher 2020-04-12 10:16

    Dear Grudz,
    You were looking for specific legislation? Here you go: SDLR – Contagious Disease Control.

    34-22-42. Secretary may declare public health emergency–Contents of order. The secretary of health, with the consent of the Governor, may declare a public health emergency as defined by § 34-22-41. In declaring a public health emergency, the secretary shall issue an order that specifies:
    (1) The nature of the public health emergency;
    (2) The geographic area subject to the declaration;
    (3) The conditions that have brought about the public health emergency; and
    (4) The expected duration of the state of public health emergency, if less than thirty days.

    Once a state of public health emergency is launched, the state government and the local governments can enforce it using law enforcement personnel, if necessary. Just as they could – and did – enforce the quarantine of the Oacoma man who was wandering around exposing people.

  50. Richard Schriever 2020-04-12 11:04

    So, another 3,600 added to SD’s unemployment numbers next week.

  51. mike from iowa 2020-04-12 11:17

    How many Noems have been added to the unemployed nepotists?

  52. John 2020-04-12 11:30

    The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed that governor’s temporary ban on gatherings. The usual crowd of republican regressives challenged that governor’s order.

    With the likely exception of the US Supreme Court’s partisan nonsense and dangerous finding requiring in person voting in Wisconsin during the pandemic — most courts practice reasonable common sense to protect the public.

  53. o 2020-04-12 15:43

    grudznick, after watching your discussion, it has become clear that SD (voiced through grudznick), and too much of this country, has take the position of grudznick: that business is somehow an entity entitled to rights — even when that entity is putting people (the ones TRULY endowed with rights) in danger. Somehow this phony capitalist ultimatum to “do business” trumps all other concerns. Your rhetoric to put public safety aside for profit is abhorrent. It is the same rhetoric used to undermine worker safety and environmental protection. Hypocritically, the business fails, how quickly the public bailout is demanded — that the public is not only subservient to business but also required to sacrifice to protect business.

    Grudznick works in this slavo with is typical anti-union quip ” that union workers want anything more than a bigger handout for less work.” Shouldn’t they? Aren’t their constituency “essential workers?” Are they literally putting their lives on the line so others can enjoy bacon? Can anyone seriously take the position that these workers — especially now — do not deserve more than they currently get — or is it only the owners/stockholders that deserve to enrich themselves off these men and women’s work?

    Ownership, profit, and investment will mean different things when we get out the other side of this pandemic.

  54. grudznick 2020-04-12 16:12

    Ms. Eve, the Smithfields probably closed down to prevent the state from getting that court order. Everybody wanted the Governor to send in the goon squads with guns, but all it took was one little declaration and a nice letter, and the very next day, viola! What will you all whine about next?

  55. Eve Fisher 2020-04-12 16:37

    Mr. Grudznick, Not whining a bit. Although, to be honest, it seems you are – you asked for one example of legislation and I provided it, and somehow that’s objectionable, too. But all I did was point out that indeed the State of South Dakota – and all other states with similar legislation – have the right to shut down any entity (corporate or personal) in times of a public health emergencies that is violating rules and orders.

    Meanwhile, I will make the observation that, if certain political mindsets had been the norm during the 1910-1930s, Typhoid Mary would have continued her illustrious career of cooking for and infecting families until she retired.

  56. jerry 2020-04-12 17:03

    Eve Fisher and mfi, thanks to you both for your posts. That Facebook post from Mr. Adelstein was spot on. Eve Fisher, thanks for finding those very informative ordinances. The city and the state are well within their right to shut the joint down and keep it shut down until it is clean. I think they realized this and are now agreeing to shut it down to deep clean it. Now, to get the workers right. That should be up to the state, we have the money to do that so it needs to be done.

    What about it Nick Nemec? Want to take a run at the biggest loser in the state of South Dakota..outside of Rounds and Thune? That governor’s chair would suit you well.

  57. grudznick 2020-04-12 17:37


  58. Debbo 2020-04-13 01:43

    Newsweek has a story on this plant. The Smithfield boss tries to make it sound like closing the plant will starve people. There are other protein options! Beans, people, eat beans!

  59. mike from iowa 2020-04-21 18:45

    Noem been listening to too much See Me, Feel Me by the Who….

    Noem to Smithfield CEO,

    Right behind you, I see the millions
    On you, I see the glory
    From you, I get opinion
    From you, I get the story

Comments are closed.