Wright County Farm Bureau members applauded their county supervisors’ unanimous vote last week to approve a package of economic development incentives for a proposed $240 million Prestage Foods pork plant near Eagle Grove.

The proposed Prestage plant will strengthen the demand for local pigs and boost demand for the county’s corn and soybeans, said Dan Cramer, Wright County Farm Bureau president. It will be especially helpful for young people who are just getting a foothold in farming, he said.

"Livestock has traditionally been the way that young people get into farming and this will give us a market close by to supply," Cramer said. "That will make a big difference for a lot of livestock farmers."

Grant Woodley, who is in the process of building a hog barn as he returns to the family farm, agreed that the Prestage plant will help younger farmers. "I think this plant will help make it possible for people like me, who dream of getting back to the family farm, to get off to better start," Woodley said.

A state-of-the-art plant

Woodley, who is also a Lutheran minister in Clarion and Dows, says he’s also encouraged that the Prestage plant will be a state-of-the-art plant that uses advanced technologies to protect the environment and workers.

"I think that will help to address some of the environmental and societal concerns that have been raised in the hearings," he said.

It’s also important that Prestage will be supplied by local crop and livestock farmers who have long histories in the area, Woodley said.

"These are generational family farms that care about the air and water quality as much as anyone," he said. "This plant will help give those generational farms an economic boost that they need these days."

Other members of Wright County Farm Bureau, along with members of Farm Bureaus in neighboring counties, spoke in favor of the Prestage plant at hearings before the Wright County supervisors.

The supervisors’ approval of the incentive package is another step along the way to construction of the plant, tentatively scheduled to begin in early spring of 2017 with completion set for late 2018. The company must still gain approvals from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and other approvals before breaking ground.

Wright County’s incentive package includes tax increment financing and other incentives worth approximately $12.9 million. Earlier, the Iowa Economic Development Authority board approved nearly $11.5 million in state tax credits for the proposed plant.

Prestage Foods announced plans to build a pork processing plant in Wright County in July after a similar proposal was rejected in Mason City.

The proposed plant in Wright County, the company’s first pork processing plant, would employ more than 900 full-time employees at an average wage of $47,000 per year, plus benefits, the company said. The lowest paid workers, it said, would earn $37,000 per year with benefits.

The proposed Eagle Grove plant would process about 10,000 hogs per day in one 10-hour shift, operating five days a week.

Prestage has raised hogs in Iowa since 2014 and currently has barns in 30 counties, including Wright, and is a major buyer of Iowa corn and soybean meal, company officials said. They said the plant would buy a large portion of the pigs it needs on the open market.