SALEM, Ohio – Ohio Fresh Eggs managers were served with an emergency order to reduce flies and fix water leaks at the farm’s Croton facilities Aug. 10.
In the order, Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Fred Dailey said fly numbers must be cut within 24 hours, and all water leaks repaired within 48 hours.
He threatened to take further action or revoke the farm’s permits to operate, essentially putting them out of business.
Farm operators took immediate action and headed off further troubles, fixing both problems to state department of agriculture inspectors’ liking within 24 hours.
This was the first time Dailey issued an emergency order since given that power in August 2002.
Clean act. During a routine inspection Aug. 8, a department of agriculture inspector noted seven barns had waterline connection leaks that were also recorded from May 9 to July 20.
The leaks allowed water to seep into the manure below. The wet manure created fly breeding problems, resulting in insect levels classified as “abundant to extreme” in several of the Croton barns.
The farm’s insect and rodent control plan on file with the state defines abundant as greater than five [flies] per square foot, and extreme is defined as dense, clustered in hundreds per square foot.
Farm management and department of agriculture officials met the morning of Aug. 10 to discuss the issues and received the emergency order around 5 p.m. that day, according to Harry Palmer, community relations manager for the farm.
By 10:30 a.m. the next day, repairs and treatments satisfied the state inspector who had been at the site for nearly two days, according to Palmer.
“The guys here stayed over shift and worked the next morning to change fittings on the watering systems, haul manure and spray barns with insecticides,” Palmer said.
Bill Schwaderer, spokesperson for the department of agriculture’s Livestock Environmental Permitting Program, said the farm brought fly levels to the classification “few,” meaning less than one fly per square foot.
Getting it done. Farm owners Don Hershey and Orland Bethel inherited several old buildings when they bought out the former Buckeye Egg Farm. They’ve spent millions to upgrade the facilities, Schwaderer says.
They’ve reduced several of the older facilities to shells and rebuilt their insides with new cages, new manure handling equipment, new roofs or side walls where necessary, according to Palmer.
Palmer says the latest issues are construction issues – not having the farm’s new 400-by-40 central manure storage building completed – and water issues like soft ground that’s preventing trucks from getting in to haul the manure out.
“Because of that, we’ve had more manure on the belts than normal, and that makes more flies,” Palmer said.
The belts are part of a belt battery system, where hens are housed in wire cages stacked from floor to ceiling and manure is deposited on belts below each cage row.
The manure is dried on the belts as air is forced over it, and manure is removed to separate manure storage buildings.
Incentives. The improvements have come when egg prices have decreased considerably, ODA’s Schwaderer said.
“But we’ve told them egg prices can’t determine if you stay within the rules of the operating permit,” Schwaderer said.
Permits to operate give the farm until December 2006 to complete their renovations.
Hearing to come. Schwaderer said the fly levels and water leakage had gotten worse since the department of agriculture proposed civil penalties against the farm in June.
“Right now [things were] as bad as we’ve seen,” Schwaderer said.
In June, the department proposed a $212,000 fine against Ohio Fresh Eggs for failing to control insects and rodents. The company has requested a formal hearing to dispute the fine but no date has been set.
Since receiving its operating permits from the department in December 2003, the egg farm has received 16 warnings and notices of deficiency dealing primarily with the farm’s insect and rodent control plan.
Responsibility. Harry Palmer said Ohio Fresh Eggs is trying to be a responsible member of the community.
“We know we have problems. We inherited a farm with a lot of deficiencies, but we’re working on it.
“Are we doing great? Absolutely not. But we’re working on improving every day,” Palmer said.
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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