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Minnesota, South Dakota cities wait on shrimp farm proposal

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Officials in Madison, South Dakota, and Luverne, Minnesota, are wondering what happens now that a company reversed its decision to build a shrimp farm in Luverne but scrapped a construction timeline to instead build the project in Madison.

Tru Shrimp had planned to build a multi-million-dollar shrimp production facility in Luverne, in southwestern Minnesota.

But in January, the Minnesota-based company told Luvene officials it was building in South Dakota instead. Tru Shrimp executives said they recently discovered a Minnesota environmental rule about water discharge that could have delayed construction by one to three years.

Company executives joined then-South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard to announce that Madison, S

outh Dakota, would be the site of the company's first plant. State and local officials in South Dakota committed $6.5 million in taxpayer dollars for a low-interest loan for the Tru Shrimp project this winter, including $5.5 million directly from the governor's Future Fund.

"Nothing was communicated to us that it was a concern," Luverne Mayor Pat Baustian said. "That's what I guess is most disheartening to everybody on the council and myself."

Tru Shrimp recently missed its planned construction date in Madison and has yet to set a new timeline. Tru Shrimp executives initially planned to begin construction in June. The company has said it remains committed to building in the South Dakota town, located about 52 miles (84 kilometers) northwest of Luverne.

"We continue our focused efforts to raise the capital required to build in Madison," Tru Shrimp sales and marketing director Jamie Brink-Thordson said in a statement to the Argus Leader .

The head of the South Dakota Governor's Office of Economic Development, Steve Westra, who started in January after Daugaard left office, expressed confidence in Tru Shrimp.

"While the project delay is unfortunate, we realize changes in large real estate development projects are not uncommon," Westra said in a statement. "Big projects take time, especially ones involving new industries. We remain confident this will be a big success for the Madison area."

Baustian, the Luvene mayor, has promised to continue to work with the Balaton, Minnesota-based company. The Minnesota city still has two massive industrial park parcels, specifically developed for Tru Shrimp's operations, and plans to make $14 million in improvements to the city's wastewater facility. Those parcels are still empty and on hold for Tru Shrimp.

In her statement, Tru Shrimp's Brink-Thordson said the company is still targeting Luverne for a facility.

But Baustian said he has not heard what the company's intentions are for Luverne.

"It's kind of disheartening after everything we went through to make that happen," the mayor said.