On behalf of the Prestage family, our employees, production partners, colleagues in the pork industry and agriculture in general, we thank those that supported our effort to build the newest, most high-tech pork processing plant in the world. But, more importantly, I would like to offer an olive branch to those that opposed our plans. Enemies are not good for business. Fear has always been the root of hard feelings and distrust. With the help and trust of the citizens of Iowa, it will be a lot easier for ALL of us to be winners. Prestage will earn that trust. Success can be measured; it looks like progress. When you look back, you determine that things are better than they were before where the risk to benefit equation was in favor of the future over the past.
I would categorize the opposition in three camps: 1) fear of the plant’s environmental impact, 2) fear of the labor force the plant will attract and the impacts that labor force could have, and 3) people that are simply opposed because of the nature of the food being produced.
First are those that fear the environmental impact of the plant as well as the impact of new farms in the area. Others fear water usage, waste water impact, odor, and flies. The truth is that this plant will utilize technologies to reduce water and energy usage, improve air quality, and reduce the overall carbon footprint in ways inconceivable just a few years ago. It’s not free, but it’s good business to invest in these technologies. New farms use 41% less water, 78% less land, and have a 35% smaller carbon footprint than the practices of a few decades ago. We intend to help lead a cooperative effort to minimize the fly problem in Wright County. Confinement in livestock production means better control of waste, less adverse weather risk, safer food without parasitism, better pest control, and less caretaker injury. We intend to buy the outside market hogs needed for this plant from responsible and ethical producers in Iowa. It will improve the value paid to pork producers everywhere because of a simple economic principle: competition. If we did not believe that we would not proceed with this plant because logically, it would not make sense for the rest of our hogs outside of Iowa.
We are not building this plant to feed China. United States agriculture exports food to other countries because they eat some products Americans don’t want to eat, such as chicken “paws” or pig’s feet, various organs, ears, etc. The truth is that American producers are so efficient that we can grow and process the animals here, and ship the products around the world more cost effectively than they can do it themselves locally. The US has a half TRILLION dollar trade imbalance with the rest of the world. The big item in America’s favor is food. Our market for the pork Americans eat will be American consumers.
The second fear is the impact of a new large labor force. We intend to be an employer of choice. Some assume that all jobs in the plant would need to be done by immigrants because Americans would be unwilling to do them. There will be a lot of jobs anyone with the right skills will want. Some unskilled jobs will be taken by workers that will now have the opportunity to progress with new skills they will learn. We are a family business with family leadership and family values with OUR name on the company. We are proud of our employees in NC, SC, MS, AL, TX, OK and Iowa. The Prestage Farms family of employees are racially, religiously, politically, and culturally diverse, but we are ALL Americans, and we are proud of their contributions in all the communities in which they live. With local help and support, you will be proud of the people that work in our new plant too.
The last opposition group are those choosing to not eat meat. I understand you may choose not to eat meat or consume animal products; it’s a personal choice. The rest of us have a choice as well. Perhaps if we all respected our right to choose what we prefer to eat we could get past the counterproductive fight that has evolved.
Lastly, I would ask that we all consider the thankless job that elected officials endure. I have never believed that the elected officials involved in north central Iowa made a decision other than what they believed was right, even if it was not the decision I hoped for. I admire the courage it takes to serve your community. Maybe we should all remember that in the future.
Now that Wright County has approved our plan for a new plant, it is my family’s intent to focus on the next phase of the project. In spite of the misconception by some that we will do this with free taxpayer money, we will do it with our own money – it is our skin in the game. We will drastically contribute to your treasury and economy. We will deliver on our promise to be good citizens in your community and your region. We will do what we said we would do. We will solicit constructive advice from north central Iowans. We believe we will all be winners if we work together and put behind us the disagreements and accusations of the past.
Ron Prestage, DVM