Buckeye Egg Farm closure stands

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SALEM, Ohio – The Buckeye Egg Farm saga is winding down.

In an Oct. 15 decision, the Ohio Environmental Review Appeals Commission upheld agriculture director Fred L. Dailey’s move to yank operation permits and close the farm.

From here, Buckeye Egg Farm’s only hope is an appeal to the Franklin County Court of Appeals.

Timeline. The farm has been blamed for manure-polluted waterways, rancid odors, beetle and fly infestations and homeowners’ headaches in four Ohio counties for nearly 20 years.

Citing past environmental mishaps, Dailey initially ordered the barns closed in July. Buckeye Egg Farm officials appealed that order to the appeals commission.

The commission heard arguments in late August and gave its final decision last week.

“The commission was diligent in reviewing this appeal, and I am pleased they upheld my order,” Dailey said.

Group’s reasons. In its decision, the appeals commission found that Dailey “reasonably and lawfully revoked” the farm’s 12 existing operation permits and denied 11 pending permit applications.

It’s now up to Dailey to set a new schedule for depopulation of the farm’s 126 barns in Licking, Hardin, Wyandot and Marion counties.

“Even so, the sand is rapidly falling through the hourglass on Anton Pohlmann’s company and its sad legacy of mismanagement in Ohio,” Dailey said.

Back at the farm. Buckeye Egg officials previously expressed optimism the appeals commission would see their side of arguments and strike down Dailey’s order.

Under new management, the farm hadn’t logged any insect or rodent outbreaks, manure or wastewater spills or contempt charges in the past year, according to Bill Leininger, operations manager.

“Clearly we are disappointed by the commission’s decision to uphold the revocation order from the Ohio Department of Agriculture,” said Buckeye Egg chief financial officer Matthew Doyle in the farm’s most recent written statement.

“We continue to be hopeful that negotiations to sell our Croton and northern facilities to new owners can be successfully completed,” Doyle said.

Egg farm officials have contended that potential buyers were only interested in fully operating barns.

Going to appeal. The farm has expressed an interest in evaluating more appeal options.

After the county court of appeals, the Ohio Supreme Court could opt to hear the case if the farm chooses to seek that option, according to Deborah Abbott in the department of agriculture’s livestock environmental permitting office.

However, the supreme court is under no obligation to take on the case.

Difficulty. Leininger also previously indicated the farm would have difficulty meeting the depopulation schedule set by the state.

The original plan gave the farm nearly a year to depopulate the barns, plus extra time to shut off water and remove feed and manure.

The appeals commission didn’t find Dailey’s closure schedule unreasonable and said farm operators would have to modify business practices to comply with mandates.

Already shrinking. Buckeye Egg had more than 14 million laying hens and pullets, as well as a hatchery and breeding barn.

This spring and summer, in an effort to comply with poultry industry programs, the farm voluntarily increased cage space and reduced its total population to 9 million hens.

Buckeye Egg facilities produce 2.4 billion eggs each year. It is the biggest egg-producing farm in Ohio and fourth largest in the nation.

(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at amyers@farmanddairy.com.)

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