Where’s The Beef – Madison Food Park?

I moved to southwest Kansas in the early nineteen-seventies as that area (Garden City, Dodge City and Liberal) experienced an economic boom based on the growth and influx of cattle feed lots, slaughter-houses and beef transport facilities.  Like present day Montana, Finney, Ford and Seward, Kansas counties had just one major export….their young people, most of them leaving for better employment opportunities elsewhere. 

Long past were the tourism days of Boot Hill and Dodge City’s famous Front Street and, even the then modern businesses surrounding what were once considered enhanced agricultural-production techniques including over-fertilization, extreme irrigation, and pesticide abuse, had begun to fade, mostly because of the then-already-depleted Ogallala Aquifer and the already increasing electricity costs required to operate the irrigation pumps then in use.

Like Great Falls today, southwestern Kansas was experiencing no-growth stagnancy with regard to population and business.  While all of this was going on big cities around the country….Chicago, Omaha, Des Moines, Dallas and Fort Worth, to name a few, were limiting or taxing out of business their major meat packing companies.  The three southwest Kansas communities just mentioned offered tax incentives and abatements to encourage those big packers to move to that area.  With them came what once was considered “minority” population growth.  Dodge City went from approximately 2% Hispanic population to more than 50%, and even though many quality Mexicans moved there, even more left Mexico, illegally immigrating into the United States, imagining to have left their legal and social problems behind.  Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal, for the most part, didn’t receive or welcome what proved not-to-be-Mexico’s-finest.

We gained at least part of our population from illegal immigrants who were ex-convicts, mental patients, scofflaws and outlaws.  Dodge City’s Naturalization and immigration Service was years behind managing the amazing influx of, not just Hispanics but Cuban Boat People, Laotians and Vietnamese, all of them moving to Dodge, Garden and Liberal to work at what were then considered “high-paying” jobs.  Tent cities sprung up all over that part of the country; make-shift trailer parks built of previously abandoned and ancient mobile homes began to grow around the packing houses and feedlots, their room partitions removed so a greater number of people could sleep on their floors.  Criminal activity abounded everywhere.

“Integral to the declining life-style of that day’s southwest Kansas population was the extreme filth and foul odor that permeated every part of our community.  At that time, approximately 25,000 head were slaughtered daily in Dodge City’s then 3 major slaughter-houses.”

Integral to the declining life-style of that day’s southwest Kansas population was the extreme filth and foul odor that permeated every part of our community.  At that time, approximately 25,000 head were slaughtered daily in Dodge City’s then 3 major slaughter-houses.  These 25,000 head were also transported in huge semi-tractor-trailers through our town every day of the week, upon most of our major streets and highways, each of them slopping tons and tons of liquefied manure onto everything they passed, especially as they turned corners, slowed down, stopped, or regained movement.  Crossing South Second Avenue, where I worked, required overshoes twelve months of the year, if you didn’t want your boots, dress clothes or shoes redecorated.  Flies were everywhere and the stench of rotting manure and cooking blood permeated the entire area.  Huge centrifuges separated the blood from water, turning the blood into meal.  In the morning, everything in town was covered with a ruddy-colored dust.

A major problem then as well as now is the provision of adequate water supply to constantly bathe the kill floors of these packing houses to remove manure, hay, straw, dirt and filth that enter with the cattle.  The Ogallala Aquifer, once the life-blood of Southwest Kansas, began to decline, its level lowering so drastically that towns and population bases on the outside of the aquifer no longer had adequate water supplies.  Car washes, laundromats and, in some cases, underground lawn sprinklers or farm field irrigation could no longer be utilized.  And the Arkansas River, once a major tributary of the Mississippi as it flowed eastward from Colorado through Kansas on its way to Oklahoma and Arkansas, began to dry up.  The once stately Cottonwood trees that lined both sides of the river between Garden City and Dodge City and beyond, began to die out until, now, there’s no evidence that either river or trees were once predominate.  Water, still the lifeblood of those Southwestern Kansas communities, became a hugely marketable and profitable resource.

Throughout Southwestern Kansas are hundreds of feed-lots containing millions of cows, each of them fattened for their final trip to an area slaughter-house.  For 25 miles in every direction of each of these three Southwestern Kansas communities, the overwhelming stench of decaying, fermenting manure fills the air.  Roads and highways, worn beyond county and state ability to maintain them, are rough, dusty and manure-packed.  Cattle, like us, also have a natural mortality rate, probably aggravated by the rough treatment they receive during shipping and handling.  Many of them die before they make it to the slaughterhouse.  All over that part of our country are stacks of dead, bloated cattle carcasses, their legs sticking straight into the air, advertising their condition as they wait for National Bi-Products or some such other rendering or pet-food company to pick them up.  The smell of death is everywhere. 

In some ways our local economy was enhanced.  Hispanics, Vietnamese and Cuban Boat people drove cars and pickups like the rest of us.  Small used car lots began to appear everywhere and the largest new car dealers grew even larger, or so it seemed, although most of their growth was due to the demise of dealers less successful.  Buy-Here/Pay-Here lots were the main financing method so repossession companies also appeared out of no-where.  Title-pawn companies also began to appear, many of them dishonest.  Some of the  more successful immigrants got into service businesses…if your business used red rags, area rugs or rolled cloth towel machines, for instance, you began to trade with the people who distributed them, or if you hired custodial workers or low-income laborers, there were more-than-enough people to fill this need.  Hispanic and Vietnamese grocery stores began to abound as authentic Mexican food restaurants took over every abandoned filling station and barber shop. 

I owned a small car lot in Dodge City, similar to what I have today.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t experience growth in business based on my Hispanic and Vietnamese trade, but there was a cost that came with it.  If I didn’t patronize their service businesses, I began to experience retaliatory vandalism and theft, and, if I didn’t go along with “the man” who delivered his “friends”, “co-workers”, and “relatives”, to me, I was eliminated from their “trade”.  I used to enjoy the most handsome, well-dressed Hispanic man I ever met, a man who repeatedly brought his friends, co-workers and relatives to my business.  Neither the Hispanics, nor the Vietnamese trusted American banks and bankers, so they generally appointed the most powerful and influential person, usually a man, from their group to act as their “banker.”  Since hardly any of these people spoke English, it was important to have a translator who could help us arrange business transactions.

Julian Medranio had been a carnival worker in Mexico, then became a prison guard and just before leaving Mexico became a policeman.  He was probably the most corrupt man I ever met in person.  He’d show up in a shiny black Cadillac purchased somewhere else, two or three white, blond prostitutes in the back seat, and the customer of the day up front.  Waving a fistful of cash, he’d tell that customer what vehicle he’d be driving home and, if the customer in any way resisted, he was beat to the ground in front of me, Julian careful not to scuff his $1100-a-pair Guccis or smudge his Cartier sunglasses. 

Julian’s main business was false identification.  At that time Dodge City was gaining 1,000 new Mexicans a month, most of them illegal aliens and unemployable for more than one reason.  Julian kept a Rolodex of illegal identification cards, Green cards, driver’s licenses and Social Security cards.  His business was selling these necessary to employment tools.  To get away with this he “played ball” with local law enforcement, turning in those who refused or who were, otherwise unable, to pay for new, necessary identification.

One time when I wholesaled a Chevy pickup to another used vehicle dealer in Dodge and was asked to leave the keys in the ignition so an employee of that business could pick it up, the vehicle was, instead, stolen….by an non-naturalized Mexican.  Law enforcement in Dodge had by that time already become a lot like law enforcement in many other areas…..they’d learned that their pay checks still cashed whether or not they subjected themselves and their families to danger, so did very little to assist property crimes.  The “man” to call was Julian Medrano.  I called him; he found my pickup, camouflaged in cardboard and cut tree limbs, in less than three hours.  He turned the non-naturalized Hispanic over to the Dodge City Police who turned him over to Naturalization and Immigration, who deported him back to Mexico.  Julian claimed the man’s attractive young Mexican wife, prostituted her, and took their two small children to be sold to those who’d pay for them.

Julian was constantly working on the fringes of the law and was constantly threatened with expulsion from our country.  One time, when deportation was imminent, I asked him what he was going to do.  Pulling out his Rolodex of illegal identification cards, he said, “I’ll be a new Mexican tomorrow!” 

My family lived on LaVista Avenue, across the street from one of Dodge City’s most prestigious areas.  We had apple and pear trees in our yard and enjoyed the fruit they produced, that is, until the Hispanic and Vietnamese population began to overtake us and, more than once, while were at church, our trees were stripped bare.  We enjoyed our church family at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church although we never did learn to understand all of the Spanish Mass as we steadily became “the minority.”

My wife, employed by the Dodge City School District, was the head of the local bilingual Program.  Because of problems within our school district, many of them caused by the multi-cultures we tried to integrate, we put our kids into safe, private schools.  Right before leaving Dodge City, one of my wife’s fourth grade students was murdered near the school where she taught at Wilroads Gardens.  We moved to Great Falls to escape all of this, to what we imagined would be a better life.  With the Madison Food Park it looks like our lives are starting over again. 

A Question For The Chief Slaughterhouse Opponent

In Jeni Dodd’s recent piece about the proposed Friesen development, Great Falls Concerned Citizens chief organizer, George Nikolakakos, writes:

“On Mr, [Tom] Jacobson, as an economic authority in the region, his opinion matters and carries weight. What he has pointed out (unrelated to this project) is that the average wage in cascade county is $18 an hour, therefore, 17 an hour is literally and factually lower wage as it brings down that average.”

To which Gregg Smith questioned:

Per Capita Income in Cascade County: $26,578 (Per the Census Bureau: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/cascadecountymontana/PST045216)

$17.00/per hour x 40 hours per week x 50 weeks per year = $34,000.00.

How, then, is this statement true: “What he has pointed out (unrelated to this project) is that the average wage in cascade county is $18 an hour, therefore, 17 an hour is literally and factually lower wage as it brings down that average.”

Huh! How is that statement true?

More On Madison Food Park — Jobs And Water

Mr. Nikolakakos, I think you’re better off opposing this on the water/Madision Aquifer issue. That may be the strongest argument.

You called Weissman’s assessment regarding jobs “silly.” However, I found much of your information to be misleading.

First, you mentioned you posted the One Montana Feasibility Study. I found no such study posted on the Protect the Falls website. So I looked on your Facebook page about the slaughterhouse and found only a photo of a portion of a jobs table posted, with an allusion that it comes from the One Montana Study.

You didn’t include a link to the study itself, which made me suspicious. Why not include a link to the whole document?

So I found the document here.

When I accessed that document, I discovered that the photo you posted of the partial jobs table is but a small portion of the information found in the document, “One Montana Meat Processing Facility Feasibility Study”.

You posted only ONE of the FOUR jobs tables found in the study, and you cherry-picked the one showing the LOWEST WAGES. There are other slaughterhouse operations jobs in the study at higher wages, and they aren’t all executive positions. The jobs tables, for those interested, are on pages 82-85 of the study.

Second, your assertions that no one in this town would be interested in jobs at a slaughterhouse that would pay $10-$14 an hour is based on what? Where’s your LOCAL research that no Great Falls job seekers would be interested? Have you asked the folks at Job Service, who work with job seekers every day? Where’s you data?

Also, about a $10 an hour wage, you wrote, “…as any employer here will tell you, myself included, those wages will get you nothing but a chuckle around here….”

Really? Then why does the Great Falls School District advertise and regularly fill jobs such as a current opening for Teacher’s Aide at North Middle School for $8.83-$10.49 an hour? Cascade County also has a current opening for a receptionist and another for clerk at a $12 an hour and the people hired need to join the Teamsters Union at their own cost. After paying union dues, they certainly won’t be making a whole lot more than $10 an hour. Another county job, Respite/Homemaker Provider, pays a whooping $10.50-$11.25 an hour.

Yet, despite what you call “fast food” wages, there’s no shortage of applicants for those positions. So maybe some local folks would indeed be interested in a job at the slaughterhouse.

The US Bureau of Labor & Statistics lists Great Falls median hourly wage as $14.72 (2016). So how do you figure the slaughterhouse wages are so far out of line, considering the full range of wages in four tables of the One Montana report?

I find that your argument about wages lacks credibility at this point. If you argument was strong, you wouldn’t feel it necessary to cherry-pick what you present on your website.

Some of the material presented on Great Falls Area Concerned Citizens and Protect the Falls, appears to use generalizations as arguments against this project. You can cite examples from across the country regarding slaughterhouses and the impact on communities, but each situation is different.

Using examples of what other companies have done that negatively impact communities in some way as proof that Friesen Foods will conduct business the same way is unfair to Friesen Foods. This is how we as a society get into trouble—all X is bad because some X is bad is a bad assumption.

I think the opposition would be better served in focusing on the real issue—water.

According to Madison Food Park’s operational checklist, the facility proposes to sink 3-4 vertical deep wells into the Madison Aquifer and utilize 3,554,209 gallons of water per day.

Yes, folks that a lot of water.

I’ve heard speculations about the water usage, whether a permit is need, etc., so l decided to contact the Montana Department of National Resources regional office in Lewistown. This office covers Cascade County water rights, both surface (spring, creek, river, etc) and ground water (well) appropriations. In speaking with hydrologist Doug Mann, I learned some information pertinent to the Friesen Foods’ proposed water use.

Although the agency has heard about Friesen Foods plans through the media, they have yet to receive an application from Friesen Foods for groundwater appropriation.

The company is required to file Form 600 GW Groundwater Application for Beneficial Water Use Permit and its associated addendums for appropriations of groundwater of more than 35 gallons per minute or 10 acre-feet per year with the MT DNRC. The company could use data from a well or wells of similar depth in the area to support their application.

The company could also drill into the aquifer for testing purposes before approval of the permit. However, they could not put that water to use before permit approval.

The area in question is not part of a controlled groundwater area, as regulated by the MT DNRC. But it is in the Upper Missouri River Basin closure for surface water appropriation. According to Mann, groundwater appropriations that affect the water rights of surface water permit holders in a closed basin could be an issue. So if Friesen Foods’ appropriation of groundwater would affect, for example, a nearby surface water rights holder use of his/her rightful appropriation, that could be an issue for Friesen Foods’ permit approval.

If the MT Department of Natural Resources proposes to grant the groundwater appropriation permit, there would be public notice with in the media (Great Falls Tribune), and the public would have 45 days to comment on the approval

“Thumbs Up To Madison Food Park” Says Local Writer

Great Falls, Montana is a great destination for any responsible Agricultural based processing industry. Madison proposes to put in a ‘State of the Art’ processing plant here. The new plant says eventually they will employ up to 3,000 people! If they are serious, have financing and regulatory permission in place they will be a very important and welcome part of the economy of our area.

People now working in Great Falls, many of whom are presently working more than one part time job, could be the basis of initial employment at the new plant.

I do not know what they mean by a decent hourly wage but just understanding the math of employment some figures are exciting to anticipate on a full time basis. $13.00 per hour wage equals $27,040.00 per year and a $16.00 wage equals $33,280.00 per year (Based on a 40 hour work week) add benefits including Social Security and a health plan and we have a workers middle class wage structure. The wages shown are for lowest level workers and are not indicative of work floor leaders, middle and upper management, office work and other necessary people for any plant of this size.

“If this plant hires up to 3,000 people that means there will be competition for available workers. This plant will bring up the hourly wages of most workers employed elsewhere in Great Falls. Do the math, if what they say is true we are looking at up to a $100 million payroll in Great Falls, and if they present competition for workers here the averages will go up for people working other jobs.”

A major cloud on this horizon is taking up to 3.5 Million gallons of water a day from the Madison Aquifer. Engineers with proper technical knowledge should comment on this part of the plan. One possible alternative is to not take water from wells but to make a deal with the City of Great Falls, to supply water from our present and expanding water treatment facility. Under present regulations it is possible for the City of Great Falls to do this supply. The City could annex the plant itself to the City. Madison would have to pay for water used, expansion of our water plant for the additional load and the pipeline to the plant. An immediate benefit would be the expanded tax base created.

Economic factors for manufacturing plants show that anywhere from one to 18 people are eventually needed for support facilities for every job in the manufacturing sector. This would be a manufacturing job creator. There will be an expanded feedlot industry, more Hog Barn Facilities, Poultry raising facilities and Milk Cow production to meet the future needs Friesen states are their goals.

This is a town with an oil refinery and formerly a huge metal smelting facility and they managed to minimize or eliminate smells and pollution. I am sure that Madison will have to mitigate any such smells or pollution. Madison/ Friesen is a Canadian based company and in my opinion the Western Canadians are just other Americans who live north of Great Falls. If they are willing to come here to build such a plant then we should give them a fair chance to do just that.


The following is taken from the City of Great Falls Codes. They can supply water outside of the City.

Official Code of the City of Great Falls 13.2.080, Part C primarily, that provides:

“13.2.080 – Service area.

The utility system service area shall be:
A. Inclusive of all premises annexed to the City and bounded by the incorporated City limits, as such limits may be adjusted by the City Commission; and

B. Restricted to those premises abutting a public right-of-way or easement and directly adjacent to a sanitary sewer or water main location therein. The sole exception thereto shall be those buildings and service lines in place and legally existing prior to the adoption of the ordinance codified in this section.
C. Notwithstanding the limitations of the service area described in paragraph A and B, the City Commission may extend the service area beyond the City limits where there are uniquely exceptional circumstances that are not conducive to immediate annexation; and, where the City utility system has the capacity to serve such extension; and, where appropriate, the party requesting services provides an engineering analysis demonstrating the feasibility of the extension. Such an extension of utility services shall be by written contract and contain the following conditions:
1. All parties must execute written consent of annexation forms, as a condition precedent to the extension of requested services. The consent forms shall be made a part of the contract for use whenever the City initiates such annexation of the extended service area; and,
2. All parties must agree to be bound by all the rules and regulations of the City’s utility system and all Federal and State requirements related thereto; and,
3. All parties must agree to pay such other fees for service and/or fees in lieu of taxes, as deemed necessary and appropriate by the City; and,
4. All parties must agree to restrictions on future subdivision of the property or expanded development of property that increases demand for City services; and,
5. All parties must agree on prezoning of property and compliance with zoning regulations applicable to prezoning designation; and,
6. All parties must agree on compliance with City building and fire codes, plan approval, payment of fees, and submission to inspection of improvements where permissible under state statutes; and,
7. All parties must agree on financial responsibility, including consent to and waiver of protest for creation of special improvement districts, for the installation, construction and reconstruction of infrastructure to City standards, including, but not limited to, water mains and hydrants, sewer mains and lift stations, storm water facilities, streets, curbs and gutters, and sidewalks; and,
8. All parties must agree on compliance with any City Code applicable to any service provided by the City; and,
9. All parties must agree on plan approval, construction oversight, final acceptance, easements, and ownership by City of infrastructure installed for the City service being provided; and,
10. All parties must agree on legal and physical access provided to the property being served; and,
11. All parties must agree to upgrade and transfer public utility systems and appropriate utility easements to the City; and,
12. All parties agree such an extension of utility services shall be constructed in accordance with the design and specifications approved by the City Engineer; and,
13. All parties agree the cost of such an extension of utility services shall be borne by the owners of the property to be served; and,
14. Upon annexation, all parties agree that Title 17, OCCGF, Land Development Code requirements must be met inclusive of signage, parking, landscaping, lighting; and,
15. All parties must agree to utilize the City’s Fire Department for fire protection services. The Fire Marshall will be required to review and approve area site plans to ensure sufficient access and other fire department considerations; and,
16. All parties must agree that all right-of-way, easement, or land dedication necessary for construction, installation and maintenance of the extension of utility service shall be obtained by the requesting party at the expense of the requesting party.

The contract for extension of the service area must be in legal form, as approved by the City Attorney; run with the land; be signed by owners of the land area to be considered for inclusion in the water or sewer service area; and be recorded with the County Clerk and Recorder of Cascade County.”

An Unbiased Zoning Board Of Adjustments

This week, the Cascade County Commission requested a list of anyone who has submitted a letter during the public comment period (or who has made a public comment regarding the Madison Food Park Slaughterhouse) as they consider two Zoning Board of Adjustment candidates. Commissioner Weber stated that anyone who made a public statement would likely be eliminated as a candidate for the ZBOA, which has been granted permitting authority for the slaughterhouse proposal. Members of the board are un-paid volunteers appointed by the Cascade County Commission and serve a two-year term.

Commissioner Weber stated that the ZBOA should be comprised of individuals who are un-biased, which is reasonable; however, this board is historically comprised overwhelmingly of individuals who represent building and trades interests. The volunteer and unpaid nature of the board does not mean it is not without benefit to some members. Board members are afforded inside knowledge on future development and can influence its course. For many, it makes good career and financial sense to participate.

Our commissioners apparently have no problem with the vice president of a concrete, asphalt, and site development company that could potentially benefit from this project, serving on the ZBOA. This individual also served on the planning board which rewrote the law for special use permits on agricultural land in Cascade County in a manner that paved the way for this slaughterhouse project to reach the permitting phase. He now will get to vote on approving this permit for the biggest slaughterhouse in the Northwest United States. I don’t’ know how he personally feels about this issue. I do, however, believe there is potential for a huge conflict of interest.

If we want an unbiased board, then anyone who could potentially gain financially from this proposal should recuse. Furthermore, Commissioner Joe Briggs has publicly supported the Madison Food Park slaughterhouse. If we are going to hold the candidates to an unbiased standard, then the commissioners who appoint the candidates should be held to the same standard. Commissioner Joe Briggs should recuse himself based on the public support he has expressed for this project.





It is disheartening to me that I believe government at the local level

has failed. We are at the mercy of a Canadian businessman, three

unresponsive commissioners, and an unpaid volunteer board to

decide a matter that will define Great Falls for generations.

It is heartbreaking to know that an unfair system driven by bureaucrats and greed could completely change the course of history for our community, and we don’t get a say. I am pleading with our elected officials to truly represent their constituents and lead rather than hide in the shadows attempting to pass off accountability.

I am proud of where I live and will continue to fight for our quality of life, environment, and to keep industrial agriculture and meat processing on this massive scale out of Montana. I do believe meat processing is an important value-added component to our agricultural community, but on a much smaller scale. This facility, if built according to original plans, will be the largest meat processing slaughterhouse in the Northwest United States and one of the biggest in the country. This puts our region at risk of Industrial agriculture, negatively impacting our local farmers and ranchers. In other parts of the country, when the large meat processing facilities have moved into rural areas, this opened the door for Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) taking over the agricultural sector. We should not let ourselves be taken advantage of or exploited and we must protect our rural heritage and our Big Sky Country.

Local City And County Board Openings

There are a couple of local government boards with fast approaching application deadlines readers should be aware of (and might be interested in applying for) – The Great Falls Ethics Committee and the Cascade County Zoning Board of Adjustments.

The newly created City Ethics Committee is seeking three members to serve three, two and one year terms. For more information contact Krista Artis at 455-8450.

The five member County Zoning Board has two openings for two year terms. This is the board that will decide whether or not the proposed Madison Food Park will receive the required special use permit. You can fill out and return a board application here and call  (406) 454-6810 with any questions.

Both boards meet on an as-needed basis and both have application deadlines of Friday, December 15 at 5:00 PM.

Madison Food Park Questions

I’m not taking a side; I just have some questions. I repeat, I’M NOT TAKING A SIDE–yet! I want more information to form an informed opinion.

First off, a complaint–Why did Great Falls Area Concerned Citizens plan an informational meeting about this important county-wide issue on Tuesday December 5 at 6:45 pm when there’s a regularly scheduled Great Falls City Commission meeting the same day at 7 pm? Didn’t they think to check whether there were other important meetings going on? Commission meetings are posted months in advance. Or did they know and just not care that some people might want to attend both? Now those people have to make a choice. City commission only meets twice a month. You’d think this group would try to avoid those times. Just another example of the poor planning which has become Great Falls modus operandi.

Mr. Nikolakakos, you’ve stated it’s opportunity for Friesen to “ship Canadian animals to the US and obtain USDA certification while avoiding more stringent labor and environmental rules.” An “opportunity” does not equal a done deal. Do you know the livestock laws well enough to make that statement? What about the local ag producers? Have we heard from them? What’s their level of interest and involvement in this project? Will they utilize this facility?

You also stated, “The submitted application calls for over a billion gallons of water usage a year from the Madison aquifer, putting area wells and water quality at risk.” That sounds like a heck of a lot of water, I grant you that and it sounds potentially harmful. But where is the data that it would be harmful? If you want to fight this, you’re going to need more than speculation. It also seems that the MT DNRC would look at this regarding the potential of affecting water rights of others in the basin. Any word from them?

You also wrote, “Prior to 2017, this plant could not have been approved under agricultural zoning regulations. This was until CEO Edward Friesen recently visited county offices. After the meeting the county, coincidentally, began amending our regulations to match virtually word for word what Friesen needed.”

Okay then, I want to hear more about the meeting between Friesen and county. Did he meet with the county commissioners? Did he meet with county staff? At which meeting did the commissioner vote to change the zoning regulations to match what Friesen needed? If it happened the way you claim, it is perhaps the biggest part of this story.

Isn’t this facility now an allowable use under county zoning? Therefore, wouldn’t some part of their application need to be deficient in some way for the county to refuse to approve it? Deficient in that it doesn’t follow county codes, zoning regulations or is likely to break a law? I don’t believe an unpopularity contest amongst county residents can legally stop it. But then again, I’m not an attorney.

For someone who is an intelligence analyst in the military and therefore should be well versed in critical thinking skills and the use of logical arguments, I’m a bit disappointed in the argument as you’ve presented it. It appears based more in the emotional, rather than the analytical.

Point Counterpoint

This morning, we published a post by George Nikolakakos, leader of the Great Falls Area Concerned Citizens group opposing the slaughterhouse.

In the interests of balance, several days ago we also reached out to Todd Hanson of Norseman Consulting Group, who has been working with project developer Friesen Foods. We hope Hanson will take us up on our offer to write.

Since this is a such an important community issue with many layers to it, I would also invite anyone else who has some degree of knowledge and who can write to please do so.

We want your IDEAS!

Nikolakakos: Growth At What Cost?

The proposed slaughterhouse is the talk of the town, as well it should be. If constructed, the facility will clearly define Great Falls for generations to come. This industrial complex, with a footprint larger than Malmstrom, would be the largest in the North West and sit just four picturesque miles from city limits. The submitted application calls for over a billion gallons of water usage a year from the Madison aquifer, putting area wells and water quality at risk. For context, this is about as much water as the residents of Butte use each and every year. The application also calls for 300 million pounds of animal solids waste production annually as well as a rendering plant which Friesen Foods’ consultant refers to as a “value add further processing center.” Rendering plant, you see, is a bad word widely associated with horrendous travelling stench and countless municipal lawsuits. The health and environmental risks associated with these kinds of facilities are well documented and accessible via a quick internet search. The massive feedlots sure to spring up in this plants wake are their own monster entirely.

Friesen Foods is pitching 3,000 jobs as “opportunity.” It is definitely an opportunity for them to ship Canadian animals to the US and obtain USDA certification while avoiding more stringent labor and environmental rules.  Their sales pitch, however, is the same one other communities around the nation have heard before. They make big promises of jobs and new technology that will finally put an end to smells and health issues. Each time, however, the results prove the same for those duped. Towns like Tonganoxie, Kansas and Mason City, Iowa recently ran away similar plants for good reason. Midwesterners know the cost benefit analysis of these nightmares all too well. Will we learn in time?

Despite Friesen’s wage claims (that they can never be held to) the Bureau of Labor Statistics has median hourly wages for meat processors at $12.78. We have countless employers who can’t fill positions at those wages right now. The truth is the same non-straight shooting guy who speaks of “value add further processing centers” also knows that these jobs won’t be going to people in Great Falls, or even Montana. This industry has a proven foreign labor recruiting system nation-wide. They know these vulnerable people can be taken advantage of and are less likely to complain and unionize. The reality is Americans just don’t take these jobs.

“Growth” some say. Well, tumors grow. The right question is “growth at what cost?” A Michigan University study focused on the pain experienced by towns accepting slaughterhouses. Decimated property values, overcrowded schools, burdened medical services, surges in crime, exhausted welfare services/infrastructure, and a general collapse in quality of life are major themes.  This proposal represents toxic growth. In fact, it is a sure way to chase out young families, professionals, and military retirees who fuel real, sustainable, and long term positive growth.

Even those who support this plan should be troubled by the way it came about on the grounds of honest and transparent government. Prior to 2017, this plant could not have been approved under agricultural zoning regulations. This was until CEO Edward Friesen recently visited county offices. After the meeting the county, coincidentally, began amending our regulations to match virtually word for word what Friesen needed. That, however, is a long story for another day.

The bottom line is, this proposal is a bad deal for our community and our families. There is a clear answer: Bad deal, no way. If you agree, visit us at www.protectthefalls.com.

Poll: Slaughter City?

At this point, most everyone knows: Canadian company Friesen Foods wants to bring the largest meat processing plant to Montana — just outside of Great Falls.

Are you in favor of this project or not?

Better yet, tell us why in the comments!

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