SALEM, Ohio – When Ohio Fresh Eggs operators bought the facilities from the now-defunct Buckeye Egg Farm, they promised to be good, conscientious neighbors who would make the farm an asset to the community.
Instead, it appears they’re headed in the same direction as their dreaded predecessors.
In a report filed Oct. 31, independent hearing officer Howard Silver recommended the Ohio Department of Agriculture yank the farm’s permits to install and permits to operate.
If the permits are pulled, the farm cannot operate under the rules mandated by the department of agriculture’s Livestock Environmental Permitting Program.
A year coming. The recommendation came a year after the state proposed revoking the farm’s permits for 12 operations in Licking, Hardin and Wyandot counties in Ohio after state officials found out company managers lied on permit applications.
Farm and Dairy reported more than a year ago that egg farm owner-managers Don Hershey and Orland Bethel told ODA an anonymous investor held an option to purchase into the company. They maintained the investor provided only financial backing for the farm’s purchase and operation.
That anonymous investor turned out to be Austin “Jack” DeCoster, a farm operator labeled a “habitual” and “chronic” violator of Iowa’s environmental laws.
Records show DeCoster was fined at least $170,000 for manure spills at hog farms he operated in Iowa.
Investigation also showed DeCoster was involved in daily farm operations, and should have been identified on the farm’s permitting paperwork, which would have made the state think twice before granting the permits.
Ohio Revised Code requires farm permits to include names and addresses of anyone who controls or has right to control farm management, selection of officers, directors or managers.
As usual. Until the permits are revoked, it’s business as usual at all three Ohio Fresh Eggs locations.
“We’re open every day,” farm spokesman Harry Palmer said.
Based on the state’s filings, Palmer said he has no doubts the state will shut the farm down. But the farm’s owners will continue appealing through the Environmental Review Appeals Commission and on to the courts, if necessary, Palmer said.
Ohio Fresh Eggs currently manages approximately 8-9 million hens, Palmer said. Their permits allow nearly 14 million birds among the three locations.
In the works. ODA spokesperson Melissa Brewer said the state expects a decision on the matter within the next two weeks.
Assistant Director of Agriculture Howard Wise is responsible for making that call, Brewer said.
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 800-837-3419 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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