Big pork processing plant planned for Mason City

Big pork processing plant planned for Mason City

Prestage Farms of North Carolina is proposing to build a $240 million hog processing facility in northern Iowa.

A proposed hog slaughtering facility, if built, will bring “a whole lot of hogs to Mason City” in north-central Iowa. It would also bring 2,000 jobs. Plans for the plant were announced March 21 by Prestage Farms of North Carolina, a family-owned company that is the nation’s fifth-largest producer of hogs and fifth-largest producer of turkeys.

NEW PORK PLANT: Prestage Foods of Iowa intends to build a state-of-the-art hog processing plant near Mason City, butchering 10,000 hogs per day initially. Pending finalizing of state permits and approvals, construction is to begin in summer 2016 with operations beginning in mid-2018.

Ron Prestage, president of Prestage Farms, announced the forming of a new company, Prestage Foods of Iowa LLC. Pending finalization of necessary state permits and approvals, the firm intends to build a new, state-of-the-art fresh pork processing facility in Mason City. It would initially process up to 10,000 hogs a day in one shift, and eventually employ 2,000 workers with two shifts.

Mason City is right place to build the big, new processing plant
“We are excited to take the next logical step by building a new high-tech pork plant in Mason City, Iowa,” says Prestage. “We see this as an opportunity to secure the future of our family business, its employees, and our contract growers, whether they’re in Iowa or the other states in which we operate. We are impressed with the help and support provided by local and state officials in Iowa, the Iowa Pork Producers Association, National Pork Producers Association and National Pork Board. We’ve always believed that our family and employees must be engaged in the communities in which we operate and the industry we represent. Having produced market hogs in Iowa for the past dozen years, we believe Mason City is the right place for us to strategically locate this new plant.”

Local leaders say the plant would have an annual economic impact of $750 million once the two phases of the project are up and running. “This will be a huge boon for our city and our region,” says Mayor Eric Bookmeyer. “Everyone should see growth, with opportunities for businesses and families.”

It’s the second new, large pork processing plant for Iowa
This is the second largest pork processing plant being planned or being built in Iowa, as the state already has about a dozen plants operating and is the nation’s largest producer of pigs. A new processing plant is now under construction in Sioux City.

Mason City officials are expected to consider providing Prestage with an estimated $14 million tax rebate over a decade. And the state of Iowa is expected to be asked to consider about $13 million in incentives. Officials say the incentives would be about the same amount provided to Seaboard-Triumph Foods for its $254 million processing plant currently under construction in Sioux City. That plant is expected to open in 2017 and also could eventually employ about 2,000 workers.

The Prestage family says its plant would be the pork and turkey producer’s first large facility, bringing new competition in an industry dominated by a few large corporations. The proposed 650,000-square-foot plant is expected to process about 600 million pounds of pork annually in its first phase with 1,000 workers, and make it among the nation’s largest facilities.

About half of the hogs will be bought from independent producers
Ron Prestage, a veterinarian by training, says his family’s company, which has been raising pigs in Iowa since 2004, will provide about half of the animals processed at the plant. The company expects to get the remaining animals from independent hog producers, helping boost the prices those farmers receive. He says consolidation in the meatpacking industry has greatly reduced the value producers receive for their animals.

“How do we fix that?” Ron Prestage asks. “We do it by building a hog processing plant in Mason City, Iowa. We’re not afraid of competition from publicly-traded companies. We’re going to get back to the independent producer selling his pork for a fair value.”

Area pork producers agree the new packing plant could help boost hog prices. “We need more slaughter capacity in Iowa,” says Jamie Schmidt, who raises about 20,000 pigs annually near Garner. “It would be nice to see a little more profit margin come back to producers.”

Building could start in summer; plant may be running by mid-2018
Ron Prestage says construction could begin this summer, and the plant could be operational by mid-2018. He says continually improving technology will minimize the plant’s environmental impact. For example, the plant expects to reduce the amount of water by reusing it within the plant. The company also expects to limit odors from the plant, which would be located south of Mason City.

Prestage Farms is the nation’s fifth largest producer of hogs and fifth largest producer of turkeys. It produces about 950 million pounds of pork and 400 million pounds of turkey annually. “This is a company that lives up to its promises,” says Chad Schreck, CEO of the North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corp. “This is a first-class organization, whether you look at environmental, employee or citizenship records.”

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