A call for action in Minnesota

Two years ago tru Shrimp, the innovative agriculture company based in Balaton, announced it would build its first commercial shrimp hatchery and harbor in Luverne. Shortly after that announcement, tru Shrimp said it was finalizing its plans for a 67-acre shrimp harbor complex in Luverne that would include a 42,000 square-foot hatchery, a water treatment facility and the Luverne Bay Harbor.

On Friday, all that changed. Tru Shrimp reversed course and said it was now heading west out of the state of Minnesota and would build its first commercial shrimp producing facility in Madison, South Dakota.

Michael Ziebell, tru Shrimp president and CEO, said there were issues related to the planned Luverne site that would need to be addressed before the company could proceed there. The issues apparently deal with the permit process involving the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Luverne city leaders pleaded with tru Shrimp for more time to work out the issues. But tru Shrimp answered that the ball was already rolling, as a news conference was set to announce the South Dakota location.

Luverne Mayor Pat Baustian told the Minneapolis Star Tribune he was “blindsided” by the news. And so were officials in Marshall, Luverne and the state of Minnesota.

Of course, South Dakota officials are thrilled.

Rep. Chris Swedzinski quickly sent out a statement after the tru Shrimp announcement.

“Opportunities for economic development of this magnitude don’t come around often, and now it appears the inability of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to successfully negotiate permits is causing us to miss out on a chance to provide southwest Minnesota with a big-time boost,” he said.

Ziebell told the Star Tribune that the administrative rule tru Shrimp said was a problem was designed in the 1960s before its indoor aquaculture technology existed. That’s because tru Shrimp plans to use reverse osmosis to filter the water. Ziebell said the mineral level in discharged water would be more concentrated and exceed MPCA’s standards.

The bottom line is that the business world often times moves much faster than the wheels of government. And it all leads to the million dollar question: How did South Dakota move so fast in approving tru Shrimp permits, while the Minnesota government bureaucracy stumbled?

Answering that question is vital for future economic growth in Minnesota. While keeping the state’s water safe for its residents is vital, waiting more than 50 years to update regulations tied to economic development is just bad government in action.

This recent tru Shrimp decision should be a wake up call for state politicians and officials. The state can’t afford to be complacent when it comes to competing with our neighboring states for that economic development.