Business

Fresh off rail yard vote, protest planned to greet Cargill CEO in Cedar Rapids

Cargill CEO David MacLennan will be the keynote speaker at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance's annual luncheon We
Cargill CEO David MacLennan will be the keynote speaker at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance’s annual luncheon Wednesday. (Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The chief executive of one of the area’s largest employers may be met by protesters when he comes to town Wednesday to be the keynote speaker at a luncheon for business leaders.

Mighty Earth, a Minneapolis-based environmental organization chaired by former California U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, plans to greet Cargill Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David MacLennan with an event titled “Cargill: Stop the Destruction” at the same time as the CEO’s appearance at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance annual luncheon at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex, 350 First Ave. NE. Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Friday she’ll attend also.

While Mighty Earth has a track record of dogging Cargill on global issues — such as practices the group says contributed to wildfires in the Amazon last summer — the visit takes on added interest locally coming weeks after Cedar Rapids City Council approved a highly contentious application by Cargill to build a rail yard in the Rompot neighborhood.

Neighbors repeatedly showed up in droves to City Hall to oppose the project.

“Cargill is trying to build directly on a flood plain,” a Facebook event organizing the protest states. “As Iowa’s very own catastrophes make clear, this is asking for trouble.

“The land was set aside for environmental preservation and pollinator protection — and building tracks there completely contradicts the very goals the area was designed to promote. The city council has failed to do its job, and has chosen to side with polluters over people. So we’ll turn up the heat on Cargill directly — taking the case straight to the CEO.”

The protest is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday outside the DoubleTree. The luncheon is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“Hear from the Chairman and CEO of one of the world’s leading agriculture businesses, Cargill — the $115 billion-in-sales agricultural giant that has topped Forbes’ list of America’s largest private companies for 28 of the past 30 years,” a promotion for the event states.

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MacLennan is expected to touch on issues of agriculture, manufacturing workforce, trade and tariffs, and the local future of Cargill.

Cargill is one of Cedar Rapids’ most important companies as an employer and an economic engine. Cargill has multiple factories in town and hundreds of employees, as well as providing work for numerous contractors.

The format is a conversation between MacLennan and Tatum Buse, of Collins Aerospace and Economic Alliance board vice chairman, and Doug Neumann, Economic Alliance executive director.

The Gazette attempted to reach Economic Alliance officials for comment.

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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