In 2017, Cascade County received a Special Use Permit (SUP) application for Madison Food Park (MFP), a proposed 3,000 acre industrial-scale slaughterhouse and processing facility located approximately 8 miles upstream of Great Falls and just 6 miles from the city’s drinking water source, the Missouri River.
The proposed MFP slaughterhouse threatens widespread, serious negative human health, environmental pollution, economic, and social consequences. The slaughterhouse would operate 260 days/year, processing ~135,000 chickens and ~1,800 head of cattle per week, creating enormous solid and liquid waste daily and withdrawing 3.5 million gallons of water from the Madison Aquifer each day.
The MFP would become the largest multi-species slaughterhouse in the American West, incentivizing the rise of industrial-scale animal feedlots in Montana (aka Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), and would compete against and likely displace Montana’s traditional small-scale family-owned farming and ranching model.
Industrial scale slaughterhouses and their supporting animal feedlot operations are some of the largest polluters and sources of public health threats in the United States. Examples in the midwest and eastern seaboard show entire regions poisoned by toxic levels of animal waste and industrial scale pollution, with local communities suffering significant strains on their infrastructure, tax base, social welfare, education, and medical care systems.
As a result of widespread public opposition to the MFP’s Special Use Permit application in 2017, the application was voluntarily withdrawn by the slaughterhouse’s proponent. A new SUP now is needed for the MFP to advance. Thankfully, as of Spring 2021, a new SUP has not been filed with Cascade County renewing the slaughterhouse proposal, although meantime Cascade County has issued a SUP for a cheese plant and distillery on the same property.
Local citizens have not been sitting on their hands since 2017, however. In early 2020, the City of Great Falls’ City Council, as requested by neighborhood councils, called on Governor Bullock’s administration to initiate an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) on the MFP, before decision-making, to shine a light on the impacts this industrial-scale slaughterhouse would create on north-central Montana communities, landscapes, and waterways. Due to the CV-19 pandemic this request went unanswered. In 2021, Waterkeeper will continue supporting local concerned citizens in a renewed request to Governor Gianforte’s administration to undertake an EIS to gather meaningful data regarding the impacts of the proposed slaughterhouse.
Upper Missouri Waterkeeper is working on the ground to support Protect the Falls, a grassroots coalition of local stakeholders in Great Falls, all towards empowering Montanans in stopping the MFP slaughterhouse and protecting Montana’s traditional agriculture heritage that reflects integrity, resiliency and support of local community food systems, and land stewardship. For more information on why the Madison Food Park slaughterhouse and industrial-scale agriculture is wrong for Montana, visit Protect the Falls website.