Regardless of what U.S. President Donald Trump thinks about Canadian agriculture… (go ahead call him a ________________(fill in the blank)), not all Americans have the same view.
Montana grain buyers and millers have been interested in Canadian grains ever since the Canadian Wheat Board folded, and recently business development reps from the Great Falls, Mt. area were in Calgary looking to attract Western Canadian food processors, ag product suppliers and manufacturers who might be interested in expanding to the U.S. market.
If you produce a great product here, come to Great Falls Montana to open a distribution centre or manufacturing facility. And if you need raw materials such as grains, pulse crops, beef, dairy, pork, poultry or fresh spring water there is plenty of room to source or grow it in northern Montana.
Here is what I learned in speaking with movers and shakers with the Great Falls Montana Development Authority.
Great Falls welcome Canadian expansion
Western Canadian agribusinesses looking to establish an economical U.S. base are being urged to consider Great Falls, Montana.
While Great Falls itself is a vibrant community of about 85,000 people, located about a three-hour drive from Alberta’s southern border, it is the services and connections the northern Montana region offers that’s the real feature, say officials with the Great Falls Montana Development Authority (GFDA).
“We’re open for Canadian business,” says Brett Doney, president and CEO of GFDA who along with Jolene Schalper, authority vice president were recently in Calgary meeting with prospective clients and promoting their region.
The GFDA isn’t looking to steal business away from Canada, but is offering its location and services to any Western Canadian companies interested in expanding into the U.S. market.
“We’re in a part of Montana that has a lot of similarities to much of the southern Canadian prairies,” says Doney. “We are a large agricultural area producing a wide range of grain, oilseed and pulse crops along with expanding dairy and beef livestock industries.”
The GFDA offers a range of services to agricultural commodity processors as well as other types of industry. One of the features of the region is the Great Falls Agri-Tech Park offering heavy and light industrial lots ranging from seven to 300 acres in size fully serviced with rail, with all utilities and “shovel ready” for construction — land is available for $30,000 per acre. Along with an international airport, the region is also serviced by Interstate 15 that extends north to connect with Highway 2 at the Alberta border and runs south to Salt Lake City, Utah and beyond. The Agri-Tech Park is also serviced by BNSF railway with its extensive network of rail service across the U.S.
Bring a good idea and the GFDA can help processors realize their potential, say Doney and Schalper. Incentives are available to help manufacturers and processors build facilities and there is an extensive agricultural region able to produce a wide range of commodities. Doney says as wheat growers move away from leaving fields fallow for a year, there’s potential, for example, to bring about four million acres into pulse crop production. As well, as the U.S. federal government opts out of a conservation reserve program there are about one million more long-idle acres of cropland well suited to producing organic crops with no delays in meeting certification requirements.
With about 7,500 head of dairy cattle in the region, there are dozens of Montana dairy farms available to ramp up production for anyone interested in processing dairy products. And as a state that markets calves but has no meat processing facilities, Doney says there is an opportunity for anyone interested in processing and marketing grass fed beef.
The region and Agri-Tech park also offers plenty of fresh water including municipal treated water, fresh water from the Missouri River or for anyone interested in the brewing industry, natural spring water from one of the largest springs in the U.S.
Among agricultural commodity processors already operating in the region are General Mills, Pasta Montana, Grain Craft, Montana Milling, Montana Eggs, Timeless Seeds, Malt Europ, JM Grain, Montana Specialty Mills, Columbia Grain and Cargill to name a few. Discussions are also underway to develop a grain ethanol processing plant as well.
Schalper describes northern Montana as a cost effective manufacturing and processing area, with a community college producing a well-trained, technical labour force familiar with U.S., Canadian and international specifications and construction standards.
For more information on the Great Falls Montana Development Authority visit their website at: GFdevelopment.org
Lee Hart is a field editor with Grainews based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]