Congresswoman Kristi Noem, R-S.D., told farm families gathered Friday at a new swine facility south of Mount Vernon that such production units are a shot in the arm for family farming in South Dakota.

Such production facilities, Noem told her audience, will keep families on the state’s farms and will continue providing for the nation’s food supply.

“For me food has always been a national security issue,” Noem said. “There is a reason we have a farm bill and a reason we have farm policy, and that’s because we decide that it’s important in America that we grow our own food.

“The instant that another country supplies us with our food is the day that they control us.”

Hundreds toured the Jackrabbit Family Farm swine production unit, where 5,000 sows will produce up to 3,000 piglets a week when the facility becomes fully operational.

Currently empty, the facility will be populated with animals in about two weeks.

The swine operation is owned by farmer investors and will be managed by the Pipestone System, of Pipestone, Minn.

Prior to speaking, Noem briefly toured the facility with Pipestone CEO Luke Minion. Earlier Friday, she had visited Wagner’s Community Based Outpatient Clinic.

Noem, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, lamented that the House has been unable to pass an updated farm bill, but she said she and others will be headed back to Washington in a week and a half for another attempt. She said very few in Washington understand agriculture or its importance, but they understand high prices and food shortages.

“That’s when they sit up and take notice,” she said. Noem said the Humane Society of the United States is challenging the use of antibiotics and is pushing for federally mandated sizes for sow gestation stalls.

“We’ve got to push back,” she said. Producers, she said, know best how to care for their animals and provide for their health.

Noem said she was aware Jackrabbit Family Farm had faced opposition. When the facility was seeking permits from Davison County, there was stiff opposition from people who live near the site.

“I did hear that,” she said. “But any time you have a new operation come in that’s sizeable, you’ll get that kind of evaluation by the local community, and that’s great. What this will do over the years is to bring some reinvestment into this county.”

Pipestone Chairman of the Board Gordon Spronk said the Jackrabbit operation is the latest and most technically advanced of the production facilities his company has produced over a 25-year period.

The 5,000 sows in the facility will produce about 125,000 pigs a year, he said, which will be sold to and raised by area farmers.

“Everybody is hungry and they like pork,” Spronk said. “It’s a global marketplace and the demand for pork continues to go up, and operations like this are meeting that demand.”

Pipestone System statistics posted at the open house estimated the operation will pay $250,000 in excise taxes; pay about $44,965 in real estate taxes; have a $700,000 annual payroll; pay about $1.7 million a year for feed; produce $200,000 worth of manure; and will have an annual operating budget of $4.625 million.

Minion presented Noem with a peace pipe as a memento of her visit. American Indians have traditionally mined pipe materials in the Pipestone area.

Asked if she will take the pipe to Washington, she said, “We’ll see what we can do. We can sure use some peace.”

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