Major agri-business complex planned for Cascade County, with potential for 3,000 new jobs

A massive agri-business commercial food park is planned for Cascade County, about 8 miles southeast of the city off the highway between here and Belt that will eventually employ an estimated 3,000 people.

Friesen Foods LLC has submitted an application for a special use permit, which essentially kick starts the development process in the county, said Brian Clifton, public works director for Cascade County.

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Application documents indicate that the project could spur growth of other local businesses and potentially create 85 additional positions in those areas.

The proposed project, dubbed Madison Food Park, on 3,018 acres of undeveloped farm land is an acceptable use in county zoning, Clifton said, but going through the process allows the Zoning Board of Adjustment to place conditions on the property. In this case, those restrictions include requiring water, sewer and storm water approvals from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality; approach plan approval from the Montana Department of Transportation to handle the anticipation truck volume; and appropriate approvals from the health department.

Find all the public documents for Madison Food Park here

Clifton said that the county planning department acts as a clearing house to ensure those requirements are met and once they are, will sign off on the permit needed to begin construction.

The process also includes a public hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for the first full week of November, Clifton said.

When complete, the project will include, according to the permit application, “a state of the art, robotically controlled, environmentally friendly, multi-species food processing plant for cattle, pigs and chickens and the related further processing facilities for beef, pork and poultry. In addition to the meat-packing elements, the project will also incorporate facilities for the processing of both fresh milk supplied by local and regional dairy producers into a variety of cheese products, as well as a distillery which will source the grain necessary for the production of Montana branded spirits from cereal crops grown by area farmers within the Golden Triangle.”

The facility will also include a large-scale packaging, transportation and distribution network located on site to ensure quality control, biosecurity and management of the product supply chain from “farm input to the consumer’s table.”

The plant will cause a significant increase to truck traffic in the area and the estimated delivery scheduled includes a Monday through Friday scheduled with 60 inbound trucks of hogs; 60 inbound trucks of beef; 40 inbound trucks of poultry and 15 inbound trucks of bulk milk. The anticipated Monday through Friday outbound schedule includes 15 trucks of processed hogs; five trucks of processed beef; 10 trucks of processed chicken and two trucks of processed dairy.

Direct access to the Madison Food Park site is anticipated to include the development of both ingress and egress roadways from Highway 89, according to the permit application. Final placement and design of those roadways won’t happen until a comprehensive traffic impact study has been completed.

Clifton said the company has hired an engineering company to develop water and waste water plans and according to the application, Friesen plans to recycle most liquid and solid waste by anaerobic digestion technology to convert the waste into useable energy to power electric turbines; repurposed into agricultural commodities or rendered into a final form that can be used such as fertilizer, pet food, lard, tallow and protein meal.

For water, the company plans to drill wells and use an estimated 3.5 million gallons of water daily for operations.

The site is within the Malmstrom Military Overlay District, but falls in an outer area which limits building heights to a maximum of 500 feet above the runway. The project includes potential development of wind turbines for renewable energy generation and that will be coordinated with the Air Force, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the county in the future.

The project will likely have a major economic impact to county tax revenues as the property improvements would be taxable and the potential of 3,000 new jobs would also significantly impact economic development in the Great Falls area.

The company plans to develop training and apprenticeship programs with Montana State University and local colleges to aid in the preparation of local residents for job opportunities at the Madison Food Park.