Editorial:

We need to support agriculture

Posted 10/15/20

You know something’s wrong when you live in a state with more cattle than people and you can’t find Wyoming beef in local restaurants and grocery stores.

The reason most of us …

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Editorial:

We need to support agriculture

Posted

You know something’s wrong when you live in a state with more cattle than people and you can’t find Wyoming beef in local restaurants and grocery stores.

The reason most of us don’t eat locally raised beef is because there are very few slaughter facilities in the state with the proper certifications to allow producers to retail their products.

The bulk of ranchers in Wyoming rely on large factories in other states, which process thousands of cattle per day and package together all the meat from various producers. This makes it impossible for local ranchers to market Wyoming produce at the kind of premiums our state’s high quality beef would bring.

Last month, Dave Peterson, owner of the Proud Cut Saloon in Cody, requested the Powell City Council change city ordinance to allow for the slaughter of livestock in the city limits so that he could open a small processing facility in an industrial zone in south Powell. If all goes as planned, local beef processed at the facility would end up in area restaurants and grocery stores.

The project has many supporters, including area ranchers. However, some Powell residents, some of whom live in the area of the proposed facility, raised a number of objections over its potential for noise, odors and traffic. It’s understandable that people in the neighborhood would want those concerns to be heard and addressed, and Peterson explained all the steps he’d take to minimize each of those impacts on the neighborhood.

Residents raised concerns about semi trucks carrying cattle to slaughter, but Peterson explained that the number of cattle processed at the facility — around 30 per week — would only require a couple pickup trucks with stock trailers to bring in.

Right up the street from the proposed location are a number of Big Horn Cooperative operations with semi truck traffic coming and going constantly. Running through the neighborhood is South Street, which is a major artery leading to farms south of Powell. It has pickups with trailers rolling through every day.

The residents also objected to the cattle noise, and Peterson explained that the animals would be processed twice per week in a few hours. Cattle can make a lot of noise, but so do the co-op plants operating there. Nevermind the trains that roll through regularly, the major highway on the other side of the canal, or the tire shop right around the block.

This is an area of Powell zoned specifically for these kinds of operations. A few cattle wouldn’t be disturbing an otherwise tranquil neighborhood.

The residents also expressed concern about odors, and Peterson explained how the outside pen would be cleaned daily and the byproducts stored in barrels in a climate controlled area to be shipped off to landfills.

Despite Peterson’s commitment to mitigating these impacts as much as reasonably possible, and the council’s decision contingent on his ability to do so, those who raised these objections appear unconvinced. It seems they just don’t want such a business operating in Powell.

Protestors asked why Peterson wouldn’t just run his plant in Cody, which allows slaughterhouses in the city limits. While Cody would surely appreciate the jobs, we need jobs here in Powell. Young people are graduating high school and moving away to places that offer them careers. We can’t really blame them for wanting a future.

The economic benefits of this facility should not be underestimated. It goes beyond the jobs created at the plant. Ranchers operate on razor thin margins that get smaller every year, and a big reason is the major packers control so much of the processing and pay producers as little as possible for their cattle. The increased local processing capacity would allow ranchers to grow their businesses, which translates into more jobs throughout the Big Horn Basin.

Peterson is seeking partnerships with Northwest College to create new trade programs that offer students marketable skills. As the college — one of the largest employers in town — faces programmatic cuts to deal with diminishing state support, opportunities like this should not be thrown away.

The council should do its due diligence in scrutinizing Peterson’s mitigation plans, but in considering objections, we hope the mayor and council won’t lose sight of what Powell stands to gain — or better yet, what we stand to lose.

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