GREAT FALLS, Mont. – Montana Specialty Mills has broken ground on a $20 million, 20-acre processing center at the Great Falls Montana Development Authority’s AgriTech Park. The new facility will have grain processing equipment dedicated to making non-GMO and organic oil and meal from oilseeds, including canola, flax, sunflower and safflower.
Montana Specialty Mills had previously operated an oilseed crushing in Great Falls that had been in existence for more than 70 years. The move to AgriTech Park allows the company to expand both its markets and its workforce. Montana Specialty Mills currently employs 15 fulltime workers and will add 10 more when it moves into its new location by the fall of 2018.
The move is the company’s latest push to serve the growing organic food and animal feed markets. Earlier this year, the company formed a joint venture with Columbia Grain International to build the new facility.
“The expansion gives us increased capability to do finished edible oils in Great Falls so we don’t have to use third party refineries, which reduces cost in the value chain and makes us more competitive in the market,” said Steve Chambers, president and CEO of Montana Specialty Mills.
The company is banking on a couple of national trends, the first being “farm to fork traceability,” Chambers said. Montana Specialty Mills is certified by the Non-GMO Project, Quality Assurance International, a USDA-accredited organic product certifying agency.
“Our customers want the transparency of knowing who grew it and who processed it and how it was processed,” Chambers said.
The second national trend is on-farm diversification, especially as barley acres have been drastically reduced region-wide.
“With more delivery points for non-GMO canola there will be more available acres for growers who want to expand their rotations,” said Garret Groves, a sales agronomist at Cibus Canola. “Small grain growers like to have a broadleaf crop in their rotation for soil health to mellow and potentially clean up the ground. Canola is great for winter wheat growers to seed right into the standing stubble, which holds the snow better than lentils.”
Cibus markets SU Canola hybrids, a non-transgenic crop tolerant to sulfonylurea herbicides. Cibus has seen its Montana acres more than quadruple in the past two years as growers seek a premium for their non-GMO canola, hitherto delivered to North Dakota or Washington, Groves said.
“There’s a huge demand for non-GMO oil and meal,” he said. “The cash flow is better for growers and local delivery will help with logistics.”
Harvested canola acres are expected to total 126,000 acres, up from 60,000 harvested in 2016, a new record high for both planted and harvested canola acres in Montana, according to a June report by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Montana Field Office.
“Growers like options and with barley acres being cut again, canola gives a guy an option,” Groves said.
The 197-acre AgriTech Park opened in 2016 and is owned by the Great Falls Montana Development Authority, which invested more than $8 million in its construction. The economic development organization works to create high paying jobs and promote growth and diversification in the region. The public-private partnership includes a trade area of 13 counties that extends from the eastern slope of the Rockies to the Canadian border.
“Any type of agricultural processing is a triple win for the region,” said Brett Doney, president of the Great Falls Montana Development Authority. “You get the manufacturing jobs, you get the tax base and it creates market opportunities for farmers and, hopefully in the future, ranchers.”
With world commodity prices low and 85 percent of Montana’s agricultural products shipped out of state with no value added, there’s more to be done, Doney said.
“There’s nothing wrong with grain trains feeding the world,” he said. “But having a first processing operation here and then maybe down to a second and third and then finished, so much the better for Montana economy.”
The park offers customized heavy industrial lots ranging in size from seven to more than 300-acres. It’s the region’s first industrial park to offer ready-to-build lots with access to utilities – water, sewage, electricity and gas – and rail. It’s also close to the Great Falls International Airport and north-south Interstate 15.
“We don’t care where a processing operation locates, but if we can use the park as a tool to attract companies to the region, it makes the region more competitive,” Doney said.
Montana Specialty Mills will be offering contracts for next year’s plantings later this year.
Find out more about The Great Falls Montana Development Authority athttp://www.gfdevelopment.org/. Find out more about Montana Specialty Mills at http://www.mtspecialtymills.com. Contact Cibus Sales Agronomist Garret Groves directly at (701) 351-3512 or email@example.com.