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New Angus Updates Brown County Commission; Still Plans NBP 2015 Reopen

Last updated on 2015.08.15

I think we need to talk out in the hall—New Angus CEO Doug Cooper (far left) and executive chairman Keith DeHaan (far right) consider what they'll say on the record to Brown County Commission on their effort to resurrect the former Northern Beef Packers processing plant in Aberdeen, SD, 2015.02.17.
I think we need to talk out in the hall.... New Angus CEO Doug Cooper (far left) and executive chairman Keith DeHaan (far right) consider what they'll say on the record to Brown County Commission on their effort to resurrect the former Northern Beef Packers processing plant in Aberdeen, SD, 2015.02.17.

Walk into a room with a press tag and a tripod, and the first thing New Angus officials will say to you is, "We're not giving interviews at this time." Ask to record their comments to the Brown County Commission about their plan to reopen the former Northern Beef Packers processing plant, and the first thing they'll ask for is an executive session.

Brown County Commission, prior to meeting, Aberdeen, SD, 2015.02.17
Brown County Commissioners prepare for the excitement of the New Angus briefing and local blog coverage, Aberdeen, SD, 2015.02.17

New Angus CEO Doug Cooper and executive chairman Keith DeHaan came to this morning's Brown County Commission meeting at the courthouse in Aberdeen to update commissioners on their progress toward processing beef on the south side of town. Cooper and DeHaan seemed to think that their update, listed on the agenda as a public item item and recorded like every Brown County Commission meeting for posting on YouTube, would be a confidential matter. Alerted to the presence of a local blogger and the commission's own camera, Cooper and DeHaan indicated they'd prefer to speak in executive session. Commission chairman Duane Sutton said the commission could consider that. I asked Commissioner Sutton if the New Angus update would fall under any of the exceptions for legal or contractual matters that allow public boards to close their meetings. Commissioner Sutton said he'd check with the state's attorney.

Ten minutes later, the meeting began, and it remained open.

Among the highlights of these public comments:

  • CEO Cooper sticks with previous projections to reopen the plant this year. He says if the plant doesn't open in 2015, he and DeHaan "probably be sitting here, because it means we didn't get it done. It's not anybody's fault but ours. We accept that." Cooper declines to give an exact date, because he says that disclosing an exact date could "send a wrong signal" that would cause producers to make decisions and investments that could cost them thousands of dollars. "We're trying to fill a bucket with credibility and not drain it in one shot." To that last comment, one commissioner replied, "That would be something new for out there."
  • CEO Cooper says the plant was set up properly and was USDA-inspected. He says New Angus is only making minor changes to accommodate the production plans dictated by their current market analysis.
  • Commissioner Doug Fjeldheim asked if New Angus is primarily targeting the export market. CEO Cooper said yes, primarily Asia, although the Canadian and Mexican beef markets are also open and cheaper to export to. Cooper says Brown County has "the finest cattle in the world" and that the Asian market is particularly hungry for marbled beef younger than 30 months.
  • Commissioner Sutton asked if New Angus plans to operate at the 1500-head-per-day capacity. Cooper said yes: "That's what the engineer plate says."
  • Commissioner Rachel Kippley said a lot of folks come into her tax office who worked for Northern Beef Packers, have stuck around Aberdeen doing other jobs, and are ready to go back to work at the plant when New Angus opens. DeHaan said the handful of staff they've brought in say they know others around the community who are ready to come back to work when the plant reopens.
  • Chairman DeHaan notes that he looks forward to discussing cattle deals with Commissioner Kippley and her husband Jeff. No conflict of interest there when time comes to check on the beef plant's compliance with zoning and environmental regulations or to spend county dollars on road upgrades around the plant....
  • CEO Cooper said he doesn't know what happened in Northern Beef Packers' operations, but he says New Angus's operations are "going to be transparent." Looking forward to that transparency, I presented my card to Mr. Cooper and said that I'll be happy to come for a tour of the plant when he and DeHaan are ready to give interviews.


  1. oldguy 2015.02.17

    CAH thanks for being on top of this

  2. Jim 2015.02.17

    Oh good, hopefully Joop can reduce any apartment vacancies he may have once the plant reopens.

  3. Lynn 2015.02.17

    Wasn't one of the promises made by New Angus to pay the former employees of NBP that are still owed their wages/salary? What happened?

  4. Nick Nemec 2015.02.17

    I'll chalk Chairman DeHaan's conversation with Commissioner Kippley up to "foot in mouth disease" and hope it isn't a veiled offer for preferential treatment, quid pro quo. If this plant ever starts operation and sources cattle locally Commissioner Kippley and all commissioners would do well to sell their cattle at one of the local auction markets rather than directly with New Angus. This operation is so entangled with, and reliant on decisions the Brown County Commission makes a commissioner who raises cattle could get in real trouble with a conflict, or at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.

  5. Nick Nemec 2015.02.17

    Were any other reporters present?

  6. Lynn 2015.02.17

    "Cooper and DeHaan indicated they'd prefer to speak in executive session."

    CEO Cooper said he doesn't know what happened in Northern Beef Packers' operations, but he says New Angus's operations are "going to be transparent."

    A little ironic?

  7. rollin potter 2015.02.17

    AND why does NBP think they can make it when NATIONAL BEEF just closed, in MAY of 2014, one of the newest plants in the country in BRAWLEY,california ???

  8. Nick Nemec 2015.02.17

    rollin has a good point. How in the hell can a small independent survive producing a basic commodity in an industry where the big four players control 95% of the industry? The big guys will move in and overbid for the supply simply to drive the upstart out of business, and it won't take long.

  9. Bob klein 2015.02.17

    Nick this is new angus beef. I don't know what the hell that means,but it sure must be better than old Holstein beef.

  10. mike from iowa 2015.02.17

    Arizona wingnuts are redefining "open meetings"

    I thought the premise of New Angus was to buy from South Dakota ranchers to feed South Dakotans. What did I miss?

    Back when I was actively engaged in raising cattle,we sold numerous loads of fat heifers to National Beef in Dodge City,Kansas. They would hire their own truckers for the long ride from nw iowa to Dodge.

  11. Bob klein 2015.02.17

    No problem at all, mike. The Jim river is nice and clean, plenty of room for coliforms!

  12. mike from iowa 2015.02.17

    National Beef claimed they had trouble procuring enough cattle to keep the place operating. Bob,don't these packing plants depend on flatboats or paddle wheelers to deliver necessary supplies by river? They all seem to be located near navigable streams.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.17

    Nick, I appeared to be the only press in the rather dinky commission meeting room, and I stuck around only for that New Angus agenda item (I still had to go to my paying job!).

  14. Nick Nemec 2015.02.17

    Thanks for the coverage.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.17

    Lynn, good question. When White Oak won the bankruptcy auction back in December 2013, a lawyer for NBP's unsecured creditors said he believed unpaid workers would get paid, but it would take six months to happen. NBP lawyer Rory King apparently said payment of former employees was part of the pending sale agreement. I should go looking for some of the NBP workers who apparently hung around and ask if they've gotten their checks and who signed them.

  16. mike from iowa 2015.02.17

    Post on the Madville Times and the word will get around you want testimony from former workers.

  17. mike from iowa 2015.02.17

    If I'm a beef producer I'd hesitate to sell to this outfit based on their past record of mismanagement,cost over-runs etc. They would need to demonstrate to me they are capable of operating a processing plant for the long term before I would chance any business with them.

    Maybe if things look dicey,they would ask for a hometown discount from nearby producers to keep them operating. They had better have plenty of backing before hand.

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.17

    (By the way, I have video of the 11 minutes the New Angus gentlemen addressed the commission, but YouTube has been refusing to upload my videos today. Stay tuned—I'll post it when it finally works!)

  19. scott 2015.02.17

    I have to ask the question why New Angus wanted to tell their story to the Brown County Commission and why they did not want to speak in public?

    I would have to guess New Angus wanted something from the commission and us taxpayers.

    Thankfully somebody was at the meeting to question the need for executive session. I have to wonder how many more times meetings have gone into executive session, when there was no need or legal reason to do such?

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.17

    Hot dog! Video uploaded! See above!

    Good question, Scott, about how many other executive sessions go without challenge. It's hard to pay attention to all the meetings that happen, and the folks paying attention need to know the rules and ask the right questions.

    I was wondering if I would get thrown out of my first Brown County Commission meeting. Instead, the commissioners were quite cordial, and they made the right legal call. Perhaps New Angus, like its owners White Oak, simply don't talk to media for fear of sending mistaken "market signals", and they just aren't familiar yet with South Dakota's open meeting laws. Today's meeting helped give them a little reminder that they should check the books.

    And yes, I'd love to know just what they wanted to discuss in private.

  21. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.17

    I think the point of naming the business "New Angus" is that "New" is always good marketing, and "Angus" plays off the Black Angus beef marketing by whatever company that is.

    Urban shoppers don't know that the beef produced by a black Angus is no different by that of a red Angus or a red and white Hereford or a white Charlois, etc. The marketing has convinced people that a roast that's been carved from a bovine with some smidgen of Angus blood is the best. Bah.

    Bill Fleming could give us the best answer to the naming question. Bill?

  22. Bob Klein 2015.02.17

    I believe "Certified Angus Beef" is a trademark or at least has some real meaning. I expect that "Angus" can be used by most anyone to mean whatever the user decides it means. "New Angus" is likely a marketing gimmick as you suggest.

    In one of my former careers, I raised Angus cattle.

  23. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.17

    I agree Bob. "Black Angus" is the label on some meat cuts at the supermarket. The actual percentage of black Angus in those packages can be minimal.

    In one of my former careers on the family farm we raised Herefords, later crossing them with Shorthorns, Angus and Gelbvieh.

  24. Bob Newland 2015.02.17

    I raised angus, and I tried to cross them with human, and I never saw any results I could really document. There were some I wasn't sure about, though.

  25. Paul Seamans 2015.02.17

    I believe any critter that has a black hide can be labeled "Certified Angus" in the meat counter.

  26. Jim 2015.02.17

    1,500 a day may bit a ambitious. Is there really that many cattle round here..?

  27. Bob Newland 2015.02.17

    Lotsa cows round here.

  28. Nick Nemec 2015.02.17

    I think Paul is right on the "Certified Angus" brand. A black hide is all that's needed, actual Angus blood lines are not necessary.

  29. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.18

    Jim, a couple producers I've talked to up here think there are that many cattle available.

  30. Mike B 2015.02.18

    The January 2014 numbers for cattle on feed in SD were 310,000. At 1500 animals killed per day, the Aberdeen plant would be able to take care of the entire state's supply. There is a problem: not everyone is going to send their fat cattle to Aberdeen for processing.

  31. mike from iowa 2015.02.18

    If all 310,000 head of cattle were Angus and the plant worked 6 days a week,it would take 34.43 weeks to kill all cattle on feed and then they would shut down because it takes i8 months or more to fatten an animal up from the time it is born. 2 Years is closer if you don't use growth hormones and other additives.

    If they killed 5 days a week it would take 41.32 weeks to kill 'em all and you'd still have to shut down.

  32. Nick Nemec 2015.02.18

    And that's assuming the big 4 packers who control 95% of American cattle slaughter just roll over and let an independent upstart come in and buy up their supply.

  33. Paul Seamans 2015.02.18

    If there was a need for this plant and if the fat cattle were available in this area wouldn't one of the Big 4 have attempted to buy it for pennies on the dollar at the bankruptcy auction?

  34. Jim 2015.02.18

    I seem to recall for the couple months NBP was in operation, they were doing bout 400 per day, but the lack of skilled workers on the saws and knives was resulting in significant waste.

  35. mike from iowa 2015.02.18

    Those skilled workers on the saws and knives will be showing up from South of the Border,down Mexico way. And of course they will be here illegally,but they all vote for Obama,everyone knows that.

  36. mike from iowa 2015.02.18

    Better call INS and have them on standby. Maybe that is why the opening date hasn't been announced. To keep the feds away.

  37. Jim 2015.02.18

    I should say the workers processed bout 400 cattle a day, and Joop and sveen processed one, huge, fat hog.

  38. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.18

    Mike and mike, would the reopening of NBP motivate producers to raise more cattle? Do we have the capacity to raise more cattle on the ground available?

  39. Les 2015.02.19

    The fact that it didn't work before by such a margin would scare any investor with a right mind as to how the New Angus might work.

    Another fact, the Wisconsin bidder in this business might have had the bull power to make it work.

    These folks don't and they don't care if it works. White Oak got it for nothing as their cash loan to NBP sits in an offshore account along with the other millions swabbed off the Asians. This will continue until White Oak can take another 30-40Mil at auction.

  40. mike from iowa 2015.02.20

    Cory,you can start calves on feed pretty quick and leave them locked up until they get fat. Doesn't take a whole lot of room for feeding. They need shelter from cold weather and plenty of fresh water. Farms and ranches around there could probably increase the number of cattle if they aren't pastured.

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