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Noem Attacking Smithfield to Boost Wholestone; Support for Second Slaughterhouse Part of Anti-China Posturing?

Why did Governor Kristi Noem fall from careful local-control neutrality to vocal anti-democracy support for the Wholestone Farms slaughterhouse in Sioux Falls? The Governor has said she’s worried that a public vote on capping the number of stinky meat factories in Sioux Falls could chase businesses away, but comments from Noem at the bottom of Trevor Mitchell’s story suggest she has decided she can use Wholestone Farms to drive Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods out of Sioux Falls:

But Noem said the new plant would not be a repeat of Smithfield’s current facility in Sioux Falls, taking several swipes at the company.

“Smithfield’s violated water quality issues for years and years, and dumps dirty water into the Big Sioux, and its a Chinese-owned company, and I got a not-great relationship with them during Covid because they wouldn’t work with me to help protect their people,” she said.

Noem added that she thinks there have been some improvements to Smithfield, and that she believes they’re trying to invest in and improve their existing building.

“But the fact is,” she said, “the new facility would be much more advanced. [It] wouldn’t have the water quality issues at all, would not have the smell issues that you see coming out of Smithfield” [Trevor Mitchell, “Noem Says Fight over Wholestone Is Driving Business out of South Dakota,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2022.09.01].

Noem’s claim that she was fighting Smithfield to better protect their workers from coronavirus is, of course, hogwash. The Noem Administration was feeding Smithfield information to help them lobby against any tougher response from the CDC to the early outbreak of covid-19 at the Sioux Falls meatpacking plant. After Smithfield’s brief initial pause in production, which Noem delayed calling for based on her close conversations with Smithfield CEO Ken Sullivan, much to the public chagrin of local officials, Noem’s enduring response to the pandemic was the same as Smithfield’s, to put production first and public health last. Noem’s relationship with Smithfield when coronavirus broke out was hunky-dory.

Now it’s Noem crapping on her corporate comity, committing the remarkable sin of a Governor publicly denigrating a major employer as a menace to public health and environmental protection, issues that have never been at the top of her agenda. WHy on earth would Noem perform such anti-business spin?

Perhaps the endgame here is not to have two slaughterhouses in Sioux Falls. Perhaps the endgame is to use regionally owned Wholestone Farms (part of the Minnesota-originated Pipestone System of hog CAFOs and packing plants). Noem has been making noise about fighting Chinese ownership of American agricultural assets. She doesn’t really have any policies to oust China from practicing capitalism in South Dakota. Maybe she thinks she can  drive them out of Sioux Falls with local competition. Instead of having to bring more immigrants to Sioux Falls and build more housing and services for the thousand-plus workers Wholestone Farms will need, they’ll just open with $5 an hour more for wages to hire the immigrants who are already in Sioux Falls away from Smithfield and sustain that pay advantage just long enough to make Smithfield shut down.

Or maybe—yeah, pure speculation, but we’re trying to make sense of really strange behavior from the Governor—Noem has gotten wind that Smithfield is looking to shut down its Sioux Falls plant the same way it’s shutting down its Farmer John slaughterhouse in Vernon, California. Maybe the Farmer John shutdown is part of a broader effort by the company to slim down its American footprint and lower costs. The closure of Smithfield would represent a major economic hit to Sioux Falls, so maybe Noem and her friends have decided they need Wholestone Farms not to help Sioux Falls grow but just to keep it from declining. They’ll then be able to tell a story of beating China and boosting American control of the food supply chain to paper over the loss of a major employer.

Let’s listen for more of Noem’s newfound interest in public health and environmental protection and see what other excuses she finds to attack one major Sioux Falls business to promote a competitor.


  1. larry kurtz 2022-09-05 08:40

    Mrs. Noem practicing cancel culture? What a shocker. Smithfield owns the fresh and frozen pork section at all three Albertson’s markets in Santa Fe.

  2. jim 2022-09-05 08:44

    I think they’ve been dangling the potential closure of Smithfield as an excuse to promote the new slaughterhouse. But under no circumstances should they locate another plant in town. They don’t need to.

    We have no idea what Smithfield will do. And we cannot ensure that either facility would have a reduction in smelly emissions. It seems that our local governments are powerless to control any of it.

    Why would they plop another plant inside city limits when you can place it outside of town where it affects few people? They can certainly afford to buy the land they need and sell the very valuable land that they already own in town.

    We don’t need hundreds of thousands of squealing pigs, thousands of stinky trucks and a slightly less smelly slaughterhouse in Sioux Falls. This mistake would be permanent.

  3. Tom 2022-09-05 09:34

    “The other WHITE meat?”

  4. Donald Pay 2022-09-05 09:42

    “Why would they plop another plant inside city limits when you can place it outside of town where it affects few people?”

    Because they are very shallow thinkers, and corrupt. This could be a good project, if properly sized and sited, but the powers that control these things have no idea how to engage in economic development that makes sense for all people. It’s all about how much money a few of the big shots can make, how they can rake in donations to their campaigns, etc., etc. They don’t care about odors, loss of business and housing development because of improper siting and the host of water quality issues that come with such development.

    If they were serious about economic development they would consider breaking up this project into smaller pieces, locating it differently so that more communities benefit without as many negative impacts.

  5. jerry 2022-09-05 09:55

    Why would you want to slaughter pigs when you can have better opportunities in Minnesota. 17 bucks an hour to scoop ice cream,

    MANKATO, Minn. — A construction company needs workers so badly, they’re flying them in from Puerto Rico and Texas and paying $20 an hour to install roofs. An online Halloween costume retailer booked hundreds of hotel rooms across the city to house its seasonal workforce.

    Welcome to Mankato, Minn., home to one the tightest labor markets in the nation. The unemployment rate in this metro area of 103,000 is even lower than the state average of 1.8 percent — a record low since federal labor statistics began tracking data, and far below the national average of 3.7 percent.

    The U.S. labor market is in its 20th month of eye-popping job creation, as worker shortages, abundant job growth and mass resignations have become a hallmark of the recovery after the pandemic downturn, helping blunt the pain of widespread inflation.”

  6. larry kurtz 2022-09-05 09:58

    Where is the water coming from?

  7. jim 2022-09-05 12:30

    Stop the schemers.

    What can the city do at this point to stop the mini-slaughterhouse? It could delay inspections for construction, electrical work and plumbing until the people have had their vote. Stop them from rushing their “custom” ruse through to completion. Is there a reason they can’t?

    Anything else they can do? Maybe admit who helped get it this far while keeping us all in the dark.

  8. John Dale 2022-09-05 13:09

    Some big picture shower thoughts ..

    WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria .. all saw fighting in regions that are satellites of China.

    China would seem to benefit from the chaos among its regional competition.

    At the apex of our weakness following Vietnam, they took over our manufacturing and production.

    As I understand it, it’s the way they like to fight war .. without fighting. For China, after the murder of John Birch, there is no heaven, and they were likely quite shocked when Japan threatened them so directly. Perhaps China puppeted Pearl Harbor to save themselves.

    After the last 150 years, it would seem being anti-China is a smart move for our own survival.

    The founders warned us about foreign entanglements.

    Is it too late?

  9. MD 2022-09-05 13:57

    It seems the Fufeng wet corn milling project in Grand Forks has helped to ignite a storm of anti-Chinese ownership sentiment.
    The anti-Fufeng protestors represent an odd but diverse group and have been working tirelessly to wear down the city council (a poor tactic) in addition to their lobbying and policy work (which is seeming to get a lot of traction).
    I honestly think Fufeng turned out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back because of their poor PR strategy. Trying to come into the Midwest with a very foreign name and no hearts and minds strategy has really caused the Chinese ownership of US industry to start to unravel.

  10. Arlo Blundt 2022-09-05 14:05

    Mendacity. Say one thing, do another. Mrs. Noem is a master of the art of deception.

  11. larry kurtz 2022-09-05 14:16

    EVRAZ enjoys a 48% market share of steel rail in North America much of it fabricated at its plant in Pueblo. Roman Abramovich is a Russian billionaire who owns more than 28% of EVRAZ PLC’s total shares.

    After China instated her ban on importing waste plastics in response to the Trump Organization’s destructive trade policies some communities are learning to improvise. Santa Fe County ships nearly all the plastic harvested from the municipal waste stream to Colorado where Denver and Boulder are among the best cities for doing recycling right. In Pueblo, Ecologic Materials Corp. is recycling shrink wrap and adding it to asphalt.

  12. John Dale 2022-09-05 15:30

    Trump’s trade policies uncovered the extent of China’s control of global trade.

    It was alarming and bad for America and Americans.

    I wish he would have done more, and look forward to a more (but not completely) isolated manufacturing base to protect our natural resources from China the hungry monster who would export, for instance, the Black Hills to the batteries of a doomed global electric vehicle play.

    In my opinion, Nationalism becomes defensive and untenable when enemies from within attack those nationalists with the desire for more self sufficiency.

  13. Nick Nemec 2022-09-05 16:10

    I wonder why state government has turned a blind eye to Smithfield dumping into the Big Sioux for years? Who is in charge of state government?

  14. larry kurtz 2022-09-05 16:10

    Just say it: radical christianic terrorism.

    The United States is the arms dealer to the world and averse to gun control at home as it assassinates children, women and men throughout the Muslim world. Hundreds of thousands have been slaughtered in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and beyond.


    China needs trade with the United States like South Dakota needs meth. It is mystifying why she would buy agricultural and meat products knowing it’s all contaminated with atrazine, neonicotinoids, glyphosate, antibiotics like agrimicin 200, bovine somatotropin (bST) and pathogenic agents that lead to prion diseases.

  15. jim 2022-09-05 16:40

    Exactly, Nick. If they have been discharging waste into the river, who allowed it? This was presumably done after the last Democrat governor was in office forty years ago.

    And for Kristi to gripe about somebody else not taking Covid seriously – that’s a real head-turner.

  16. grudznick 2022-09-05 17:09

    Mr. Nemec, the Deep State is in charge of all governments.

  17. All Mammal 2022-09-05 17:27

    After an objective look at the practices of our country’s businesses, its ludicrous to point a finger at China’s faults in the US.
    Meanwhile, after being convicted numerous times over the last several years for polluting more than it’s allotted share into the ground and Rapid Creek, the Rapid City Dump was finally charged $500. The city fined itself. And it only took years in double digits and tons of toxins… Won’t be long until frog song ceases entirely out here. The pollution keeps on a seeping. Maybe in 2032 the city will fine itself another $500.

  18. All Mammal 2022-09-05 17:28

    Noem is no master in any art. She is a messy profiteer.

  19. O 2022-09-05 17:43

    Mr. Dale, corporate/stock profit seems to be the clear line where Nationalism or domestic security ends. Keeping manufacturing domestic and paying fair wages to domestic workers, the meat and potatoes of a strong national manufacturing base, get lost in the wash for obscene corporate profit. Much the same could be said for environmental laws that keep our air and water clean.

  20. Donald Pay 2022-09-05 21:17

    My take on this is different, partly because my daughter is a China ag expert. China is interested in one major thing: food security. It’s been a long-standing problem in China. Their interest in food security is not just for their own markets. Around 2010 they changed their policies regarding allowing companies to participate in the global market. Not only did they allow the Smithfield takeover, by WH Group they provided huge loans to WH Group to make it happen. China has huge amounts of pork in cold storage now, so if they have to cull half of the pig herd, they can do it without much problem. They also are modernizing their pig production and meat packing system. They also have had periodic disease problems in their chicken production, which they are also trying to modernize. Whether they can get to self-sufficiency is a question. They also have figured out the US is not a very dependable ag trading partner, and have made efforts since Trump’s trade policies (which Biden has largely continued) to dump the US as much as they can, and diversify the countries from whom they import ag products. Thus, Brazil, if it has a good crop, is now a preferred trading partner, especially of soy. They do like US products, but not the BS that goes along with having to trade with a country that is not dependable.

  21. All Mammal 2022-09-05 23:08

    One of the most destructive stunts XPOTUS trump pulled was nixing American soybeans exported to China. American farmers were screwed out of their deal and China was about to be SOL unless the only place able and willing to grow China’s imperative crop-Brazil-burned down their Amazon rainforest to make room for China-scale agriculture. Now the whole planet’s lungs are scorched while China still doesn’t have their soybean security they need and the only person smiling looks like a leftover spaghetti bowl after the microwave.

    We can have a symbiotic relationship with China and the rest of the world. We just have to keep trump out of our business and have diplomatic geniuses suggesting the world trade options.

  22. Guy 2022-09-05 23:21

    Well they need to relocate the meat plant. I mean seriously,, it no longer fits in with the newly emerging cosmopolitan downtown Sioux Falls, including the city’s top tourist destination, Falls Park. Nobody is going to miss the downtown Smithfield plant when it’s finally gone. It’s going to take a major EPA Grant along with a brown field study to clean that area up! But it’s needed and it will be welcomed by the majority of people in Sioux Falls.

  23. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-09-06 05:44

    (Pearl Harbor staged by China? Now we’re really off topic and off rocker.)

  24. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-09-06 05:47

    Guy, if I could take Noem’s statements at face value, I might be inclined to side with her. If Wholestone Farms could really build a slaughterhouse that wouldn’t stink or pollute the Big Sioux, then letting them build their proposed plant and shutting down Smithfield would be a net plus for Sioux Falls. Even if it stinks, the Wholestone plant would be another couple miles away from downtown.

    But Wholestone would be a bigger plus if it were built outside city limits.

  25. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-09-06 05:50

    Nick reminds us that Noem’s environmental concerns ring hollow. The state could shut down Smithfield any time it wanted to for its ongoing environmental violations. She’s not really trying to make the Big Sioux River cleaner. What’s her real game here?

  26. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-09-06 07:54

    Her real game is she’s not too bright, mendacious, has a limited attention span and memory, is a MAGA shill, and is far too busy chasing out-of-state donors to be consistent. But, other than that, she’s a fine governor.

  27. Donald Pay 2022-09-06 08:26

    Cory, Noem has no game. She picks up righty conspiracy theories and generates random statements about random topics that using currently favored memes and words. “Divisive concepts,” for example, ain’t something she came up with. There are multiple states using that same format. The same thing we talk about here about what is Noem up to is the same thing they talk about all over the red state lunasphere, a word I just came up with.

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