Say Cheese

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Montana Mac and Cheese, it has a pleasant ring to it. You can almost hear the Trapp family singing, “The Hills are alive with the Sound of Music”.

The number 1 item on the Great Falls Development Authorities Top Ten for the first week of May was the proposed cheese plant to be located on the Madison Food Park property east of Great Falls. GFDA had this to say:

“Big Sky Cheese submitted plans to Cascade County to build a 20,000 square foot specialty cheese plant in the Madison Food Park. This is a very exciting step in expanding and diversifying food and ag processing in the region. GFDA has reviewed the plans and enthusiastically supports this project”.

The big question concerning this project is, who wouldn’t support a specialty cheese plant in our community?

As background, the 2018 Tribune article “What’s the future of milk in Montana?” outlines a new study commissioned by Montana Board of Milk Control completed by New Jersey-based Dairy Technomics. The study reports the challenges ahead for the dairy industry, and suggestions as to how to tap in the opportunities.

Some facts according to the study:

“In 2000, Montana had about 140 dairies and now has about 60.

Montana had about 13,000 dairy cows, and now has about 11,000.

Montana has three milk processing plants, Meadow Gold in Great Falls and Billings, and Dairigold in Bozeman.”

Great Falls once had five milk processors, Meadow Gold, Ayrshire, Pioneer, Darigold and Jersey.

The problem for the dairy industry is that “There is an oversupply”, said Bud Cary of Dairy Technomics.

According to an article published by Fox News, “Dairy farmers hit hard by declining milk demand”,  three decades ago, Americans drank about 247 pounds of milk every year. By 2016 consumption dropped to 154 pounds per-capita, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. As a result, prices for milk dropped from over $25 per 100 pounds in September of 2014 to only $15.30 now.

The good news is that per-capita cheese consumption in America has increased from 32.1 pounds in 2000 to 39 pounds in 2017. Demand for specialty cheeses have seen the greatest increase.

If it is sounding like it’s a good time to start a specialty cheese plant, you would probably be right. Even though the Dairy Technomics’ report concludes that a small plant (3,000 to 30,000 pounds of milk daily) would not in itself have a significant impact on the surplus milk situation in Montana, it is certainly a step in the right direction that helps our dairy farmers, and would be a value to our community.

Combine products produced by Big Sky Cheese and Pasta Montana and Montana Mac and Cheese sounds like economic development.

So, Say Cheese Please!

Don’t let this opportunity for Great Falls and Cascade County be a future case of crying over spilt milk.

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Philip M. Faccendahttp://www.straymoose.com
Philip M. Faccenda is an AIA award-winning architect and planner. He is the Editor-in-Chief of E-City Beat.

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