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Snub? Branstad to sign bill in Newton instead of Mason City after embarrassment of hog plant saga


DES MOINES – Governor Terry Branstad was supposed to sign a bill in Mason City today, then he says he got sick. Now, he’s chosen another town altogether for the ceremony.

Today, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s office cancelled a planned trip to Mason City to sign a renewable fuels bill at the REG biorefinery “out of an abundance of caution” due to a “seasonal cold”. The last time Branstad was in town, he attended a press conference on March 21 at which he and other elected officials trumpeted the fact that Prestage Foods, LLC had chosen Mason City for its mega pork processing plant.

The deal went south from there, however, and the plant was never approved after a weeks-long saga and public backlash, culminating in a 3-3 city council vote that thwarted the development. A source familiar with the Governor told NIT that “Terry got egg on his face and is furious” that he was brought to Mason City in connection to the Prestage announcement. The source told NIT that the Governor was promised that the Prestage Foods hog plant development would be a “slam dunk” and the council vote would be a mere “rubber stamp”.

But, protests ramped up as each city council meeting was held, and things got nasty in Mason City. Elected officials and Prestage bigwigs called North Iowans “racists” and “kooks” in the wake of a 3-3 vote on May 3 that seemed to end the prospects of Prestage coming to town.

“I can’t blame him for not coming back here,” the source explained this afternoon. “I mean, he’s the governor. You think he wants to face the potential of angry protestors?  He came here in March to celebrate the biggest economic development in North Iowa history. He laughed. He shook hands. The council was supposed to be a formality. It all blew up in his face once, and he won’t let it happen again.”

Monday afternoon, Branstad’s office announced he has “rescheduled the public bill signing”, which would provide for tax credits and refunds relating to renewable fuels.

“Please note the change from Mason City to Newton,” his office said.

More on this developing story to come.

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