All that Prestage Farms wants to do is build a pork processing plant in Iowa. If you’ve followed this saga, you’ll remember that what appeared to be a done deal in Mason City got derailed when Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement activists took control of the proceedings. As a result, Mason City officials in May rejected the incentive package intended to aid Prestage Farms’ progress. The decisive meeting ended early in the morning after about seven hours of “testimony.”
Not turning its collective back on Iowa, Prestage Farms sought another location in the Hawkeye State, and the Wright County Board of Supervisors stepped up to the challenge. Earlier this month, Prestage Farms, based in North Carolina, announced plans to build its $240-million plant on about 160 acres five miles south of Eagle Grove, a town of about 3,600 residents.
As opposition mounts, and you know it will, the Wright County Board of Supervisors has taken steps to avoid another Mason City. Earlier this week, the Supervisors set guidelines on the public comment process. Under these new rules, members of the public wishing to comment at a Supervisor meeting will need to sign up 30 minutes in advance, as well as provide proof of residential address. Each person will be allowed to speak for two minutes with the overall comment period limited to two hours.
Opposition, ICCI, is already crying foul, saying the new guidelines are silencing the voice of the opposition. I have attended my share of tumultuous public hearings and meetings over the years, and I wish such rules had been in place at some of those. If you can’t gather your thoughts and be prepared to speak your mind in two minutes, you need a little help getting organized.
Also, the Supervisors will get the intent of opposition to the plan after the first 12 citizens speak against it, that they don’t need to hear from another 20 saying the exact same thing. Same goes for those favoring the plan; there are only so many ways that you can stress the positive economic impact the plant will provide to the area and the area’s hog producers.
After gathering the proof of address of residence, Wright County residents will speak first, followed by citizens of the eight bordering counties. As time permits, within the total two hours, residents from outside the immediate area will be allowed to speak.
This is a good move. Allow those directly impacted by the plant to have their say, rather than allowing the testimony, and possibly the project, to be hijacked by people who probably had never even heard of Eagle Grove, Iowa.
This new comment policy will probably get its first test Monday morning as the Wright County Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss a development agreement for the Prestage project.
And, so it begins.