GREAT FALLS – Stacy Hermiller moved into her home east of Great Falls in 2009 because her family wanted the country lifestyle while also staying close to town.
She and her husband recently received a letter outlining a new facility, Madison Food Park, that developers plan to build next to their home.
The 3,000-acre facility would include food processing for cattle, pigs, and chickens. It would also incorporate facilities for the processing of milk and cheese products, as well as a distillery for the grain needed for Montana-branded spirits.
Developers expect the plant to create around 3,000 jobs, along with up to 85 supporting jobs in surrounding communities.
Supporters say the plant would provide more competition and reduce freight costs for producers. Opponent’s concerns include a high turnover rate, more traffic odor issues, and decreased property values.
One of those opponents is Hermiller; she said, “When I looked at the map and realized this was a massive industry facility going literally into our backyard, then it admittedly turned into horror.”
Hermiller said not only is she concerned about the size of the facility but also the environmental and health concerns.
The waste lagoon will be located about a mile from Hermiller’s property.
“It is where the waste will go to literally decompose,” Hermiller said. “The construction of these kinds of lagoons is banned in North Carolina due to an environmental disaster in 1995 where one these lagoons failed.”
For the past decade, Norseman Consulting Group, along with other producers, have worked to bring a facility such as the Madison Food Park to the golden triangle region.
“The site in Great Falls was selected ultimately because the transportation networks that exist was of particular value and interest to the Friesen Foods owners and operators,” Todd Hanson of Norseman Consulting Group said.
The development process for the Madison Food Park is still in the early stages. The owners are looking into utilizing the natural resources of the area.
“We are looking to mitigate and or manage any of the issues that may arise related to the site or sound or smell that may be associated with the facility for this scope and scale,” Hanson said.
According to the company, they have contacted residents whose property will neighbor the Park.
Hermiller said her questions about Madison Food Park have not been answered.
“My understanding is the DEQ hasn’t been even been notified of this so real questions I do not think are being answered as to what are the real impacts here.”
The special permit meeting for the Madison Food Park will be in Family Living Center at Montana ExpoPark on Thursday, Dec. 7, at 9 a.m.