Agricultural Development Can Breathe New Life into Rural Communities
The month of May is like a set of bookends about Prestage Farms making a bid to build a pork processing facility in North Iowa. In my first blog of the month, I talked about how new businesses could make North Iowa prosper. Protesters, however, swayed the city council’s vote in Mason City and Prestage Farms was sent packing. In a turn of events, now my home county is reaching out to Prestage Farms. That’s why my last blog of this month will give reasons why I believe building a new pork processing facility in Franklin County is a win-win situation.
Here are a few of the reasons why Franklin County is a good fit for Prestage Farms:
- Franklin County’s economy is ag-based, and residents understand the relationship between agriculture and local prosperity. Large numbers of hogs are raised here, so residents know first-hand that people and pigs can coexist harmoniously.
- A processing plant means local producers will have more options to sell their pork. About 26 million pigs are currently raised within 100 miles of Mason City, but this hog supply has outpaced available packing capacity as older facilities closed. Prestage Farms’ new facility would provide a market for about 1 million hogs that already are raised in our area.
- Our proximity to Interstate 35 makes shipping convenient.
Those who opposed Prestage Farms building in Mason City raised concerns about air quality and water supply. Today I plan to provide “the other side of the story” as it relates to each of these topics. I also want to reiterate the positive impact Prestage Farms could have on economic development.
This plant will be more advanced than any in the world. New technologies will negate odors from the livestock barn and rendering facilities. Vegetative buffers will further reduce potential concerns. The holding pond for wastewater treatment will be covered, and the methane captured will be utilized as an energy source. Wastewater treatment and rendering will use the latest technology available for further remediation and conditioning prior to emission.
The County will work closely with the Iowa DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and company engineers to determine waste flows from the plant. The company will pre-treat all water leaving the facility, so nothing harmful will be released into the area watershed. It’s my understanding that testing is required daily to meet local and state regulations.
It was estimated that the Prestage pork project would have an economic impact of $750 million on the region through population growth and spending at local businesses. During the Mason City hearings, it was reported that Prestage would create 922 full-time jobs averaging $15.70/hour plus overtime and full benefits. The lowest paid Prestage employees are expected to make $39,208 annually plus benefits estimated at $12,236,722:
- Affordable Family Healthcare
- Short-term disability insurance after one year of employment
- Company paid life insurance
- Contributions to Health Savings Account
- Paid time off including vacation and holidays
- 401-k match of one-to-one match for first 2% of employee contribution
Stop the Spread of Fear
“It’s becoming mainstream in our culture to petition against something we don’t understand. People have preconceived notions – most of which aren’t even true – and that propagates fear. Fear kills job,” said Reg Morton of Mort’s L.L.C. “For those who operate on fear, I have explained the two options: (1) Fill your towns with people who are working and bringing income into the community; or (2) Let the houses stand empty until someone unemployed and on entitlements moves in.”
“Prestage Farms is an opportunity… we really need to take a strong look at this,” encourages Reg. “There will be positives and negatives that must be considered, but one thing is for sure, our communities need people with jobs in order to remain healthy and vibrant.”
Anti-farm groups had everyone in North Iowa worked in to a tizzy. Myths have half-truths spread faster than wildfire, so in last week’s blog I addressed one of their concerns about nutrient waste management. Not only can pig poop be managed, it can fuel our economy here.
“Agriculture is what fuels us,” said Mason City Mayor Eric Bookmeyer. It fascinates me that we’re willing to stick our nose up… I wonder where we’re at that we are considering not participating in the largest industry in Iowa.” (Click here to watch the rest of his emotional testimony.)
Franklin County has an opportunity to not only participate – but to embrace – agriculture as economic development. We have room for Prestage Farms, and Prestage Farm can help bring new life (literally) to our local communities. Win-win.