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Area rancher looks to beef packing plant for progress

Published: Mar. 31, 2021 at 10:02 PM CDT
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NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - The North Platte City Council will determine whether to declare nearly 400 acres of land on the city’s east side as blighted and substandard next week. The process is just one of several the owners of a proposed meat packing plant must clear to bring the project to fruition.

McPherson County rancher Rusty Kemp says the proposed plant, Sustainable Beef, LLC, will do just that - grow the local economy through value added agriculture.

Kemp says the idea for the near $300 million project all started with a trade mission trip with Governor Pete Ricketts in 2019. It was right around the same time when a fire destroyed one of the nation’s largest beef packing plants in Kansas and disrupted the beef supply chain.

“Producers were having to truck cattle from Nebraska to Washington state to harvest them after that, and then COVID hit, and things got really bad,” Kemp said. “People couldn’t get their animals to be harvested and it was just financially devastating for people in agriculture.

Kemp says he had great conversations about the challenges currently facing the ag industry with Governor Ricketts during the trip. That’s when Kemp says, Ricketts encouraged him to find a solution.

“If we are going to grow this economy, it needs to be through added value agriculture.” Kemp said. “We need to take the ag products we produce in Lincoln County and the surrounding area - the North Platte trade area, and add value to it. That’s how we grow our economy here.”

The plant is expected to create nearly 900 jobs with an average salary of $50,000. It’s also expected to have annual economic impact on the local economy of close to one billion dollars. An economic study by Creighton University economist Ernie Gross predicts an additional 1,000 jobs could be created on top of the jobs that the plant will produce.

The proposed site for the plant is on Newberry Access and Golden Road. Kemp says the location was chosen based on three things: the area needs to be zoned as heavily industrial, have access to city utilities, and it needs to be adjacent to a waste water treatment facility.

If passed, the plant could break ground as early as September with an opening date sometime in early 2023. Tax increment financing (TIF) will be used for the construction of the plant.

Sustainable Beef, LLC CEO David Briggs said the plant will process around 400,000 cattle each year. The plant anticipates to draw employees within a 60-mile radius.

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