This story has been updated with comments from Martha Koehl of Riverview communications.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Riverview LLP, the apparent to-be buyer of farmland owned by Gov. Kristi Noem’s brothers, already has an expansive presence in South Dakota.
The three-pronged company owns several dairies with thousands of cows in milk production, mostly in the northeastern part of the state. Riverview is based in Morris, Minnesota. It has dairy operations in South Dakota and western Minnesota, along with beef operations in those states and Nebraska. Riverview also has fresh heifers and dairy calves in eastern New Mexico and heifers and dairy calves in southeastern Arizona.
If it buys the land reportedly owned by Rock and Robb Arnold near Hazel, this would be at the sixth dairy owned by Riverview LLP in South Dakota. Martha Koehl, of Riverview communications, said the company has four already built dairies and is nearly finished with its fifth called Washington Dairy near Willow Lake.
Riverview also has a feedlot in eastern South Dakota.
A South Dakota Department of Transportation report in May of 2023 for Riverview in Clark County, said Riverview owned and managed 24 different livestock sites in five different states. As of the May 2023 SD DOT report/application. Riverview had employed more than 250 people and the work force was expected to increase to 300.
Koehl said Riverview has about 50,000 cows in the state.
The SD DOT document was for a Tax Increment Finance district project for a construction project on Clark County Highway 17 involving a $6 million state highway fund loan related to the Clark Dairy.
This would not be the only time Riverview has worked with the state for project funding.
The Clark Dairy was approved in March of 2020 to receive up to $25 million in state-backed livestock nutrient management bonds for the solid waste disposal portion of an 11,000 cow dairy. The bonds were approved by the state’s Value Added Finance Authority.
A public information was set for tonight in Hazel on the proposed dairy project.
Koehl said the public information meeting is one of the first steps in the process to establishing a dairy. In the several days before the meeting, Riverview and the landowners have also been talking with neighbors.
“We want to make sure it’s a viable site, a welcoming community and the right place to grow or business,” Koehl said.
Riverview started as a family farm operation in Stevens County, Minnesota, in 1939. According to information shared in a 2018 video and other sources, the farm grew to a larger operation with multiple investors and is now, largely, employee-owned.
Dairies with 9,000 or more cows are typical for Riverview.
The possible dairy near Hazel would have 12,500 cows, Koehl said. It would employ about 50 workers, she said.
The GOED recorded a video story of a Riverview dairy called Garfield Dairy in 2021. The video said in 2021, the facility was 910,000 square feet and it could hold up to 9,500 cows.
It’s common at Riverview dairies for cows to be milked twice a day on a carousel.
Each cow produces about eight gallons of milk per day which is sent to processing plants to make cheese, according to the Riverview website.
One cow produces enough organic fertilizer for ¾ acre of land per year, according to Riverview.
Other sites said a cow can produce as much as 80 pounds of manure a day.
Manure is used for fertilizer in cropland. Riverview also converts some manure to methane natural gas for fuel use.
Making sure there is adequate cropland to inject the manure as fertilizer is one of the critical pieces to a dairy site, Koehl said. The manure from the proposed Hazel site would be used for fertilizer.
Another critical piece is to make sure there is enough water supply for a dairy, Koehl said.
“It would be poor investment if you not (have enough water),” Koehl said. And, “we do not want to threaten any natural resources.”
Examples of Riverview dairies in Minnesota include the Louriston Dairy near Murdock, Minnesota and the Waukon dairy, near Gary. The Louriston Dairy was built in 2017. Upon completion, there were 9,500 cows in the dairy.
The dairy in Waukon Township opened in 2022. It had 10,500 cows when it opened.
Koehl said as of Oct. 3, there is no set timeline or start date for construction, even one “that we are hoping for.”
“Every project is different,” Koehl said.
Riverview has expanded into South Dakota for several reasons, Koehl said. “The people and communities’ desire for growth,” Koehl said. Also the state is agriculture friendly but friendly in general, she said.