TOOLE COUNTY- It was a packed house in Toole County on Monday night as Madison Food Park spokesman Todd Hanson talked to residents about the proposed food processing facility near Great Falls.
The Marias River Livestock Association hosted the information meeting about the facility.
Friesen Foods, LLC, acquired approximately 3,018 acres of undeveloped real estate several miles southeast of Great Falls. The project will include a processing plant for cattle, pigs, and chickens, and the related further processing facilities for beef, pork, and poultry.
The project will also incorporate facilities for the processing of milk, supplied by regional dairy producers into a variety of cheese products; and a distillery which will source the grain necessary for the production of Montana-branded spirits from cereal crops grown in the region.
Developers expect that when the project is fully operational, it will directly create about 3,075 jobs, along with as many as 85 supporting jobs in the surrounding community.
However, concerned citizens are skeptical about the possibility of the plant and the problems it could create for area residents.
Concerns include high job turnover rates, traffic and odor issues, and decreased property values.
Hanson said he visited Shelby to speak directly with producers and to answer any questions.
Much of the conversation focused on benefits to cattle producers and whether Madison Food Park will be transparent.
Some audience members asked if cattle can be delivered directly to the processing facility or if a third party has to be involved.
Hanson said that Madison Food Park will have open communication and that cattle can be delivered to the facility.
Other issues included the involvement of Canadian companies, which Hanson said will not be involved.
Rancher Maggie Nutter presented a different outlook as she doesn’t live in the Great Falls area.
“The people in the city of Great Falls might be worried about the impacts to their hospital, their schools, and I have a concern for that too,” she said. “But on the other hand, we’re going to discuss opportunities. How does this benefit all of Montana? They are going to be pulling cattle from all over the state.”
Nutter believes Madison Food Park will be an advantage to rural communities.
If the plan passes, the Food Park could be up and running by 2020.
-Elizabeth Transue reporting for MTN