Associates of Wholestone Farms project call bribery scandal 'ancient history'
Current and former officials of holding group faced investigation, prosecution into fraudulent loans and bribing a public official
An entity behind a new pork processing plant in northeastern Sioux Falls has grown from a single sow barn in Pipestone, Minn., to a regional power in swine production with global ambitions.
And should the company succeed in building a Wholestone Farms processing plant in Sioux Falls, it would take a step forward in bypassing large meatpackers, including Smithfield Foods, that dominate the pork industry.
Wholestone Farms is its own legal entity with 220 farmer partners, but it is a spinoff of what’s known as the Pipestone System, which itself is part of a larger entity called Pipestone Holdings.
Since building its first sow barn in 1990, Pipestone System has grown steadily in the Midwest and beyond and today has clients around the world, including Mexico, Asia and South America, said Luke Minion, the CEO of Pipestone Holdings.
“Wherever there’s pigs, we have clients,” Minion said.
Wholestone, which formed in 2018, is the most significant partnership of farmers ever put together, Minion said. Wholestone started by buying a pork processing plant in Fremont, Neb., from Hormel Foods Corp. The company promises that its Sioux Falls plant would be built with technologies that reduce the smells that emanate from packing plants.
But that plan is now in court, and voters in Sioux Falls will see a measure on the November ballot that seeks to stop the construction of the Wholestone plant and any future slaughterhouse in city limits.
The high-stakes election has added scrutiny to both sides on the issue, with everyone from Gov. Kristi Noem to powerful business groups weighing in. And while Pipestone System has become a respected player in the pork industry over the past three decades, the company has also been tinged with scandal.
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