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.