SALEM, Ohio – Last week, Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Fred Dailey proposed civil penalties of $212,000 against Ohio Fresh Eggs, the company that took over barns previously owned by Buckeye Egg Farm.
Dailey said the new operators failed to keep manure moisture levels at acceptable levels, creating fly breeding and infestation problems and drawing complaints from neighbors of the Croton facility in Licking County.
Ohio Fresh Eggs disagreed with the proposed penalty assessment and requested a formal hearing. No date has been set.
No spokesperson for Ohio Fresh Eggs was available for comment.
Permits. The manure moisture and fly issues violate the farm’s installation and operating permits obtained from ODA in December 2003.
Since that date, Dailey has issued 11 warnings and notices of deficiency dealing primarily with the farm’s insect and rodent control plan.
The most recent citation said the farm let manure moisture at three of its layer facilities in Croton exceed 30 percent, which is prohibited by the permit.
Moisture levels above that threshold increase fly breeding problems in the barns, according to Kevin Elder, executive director of the state’s Livestock Environmental Permitting Program.
Remodeling. According to department records, when Ohio Fresh purchased the Croton complex from Buckeye Egg Farm, there were 64 layer barns at the Croton complex with a permitted capacity of 5.6 million hens.
Ohio Fresh Eggs planned a $60 million renovation of the barns and was ordered to add a total of eight manure storage buildings plus belt battery systems to move manure from the layer barns.
In a belt battery system, 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.
Problems. Not all the barns have been switched to the new manure handling system, according to Elder.
In those barns, manure was piled in the lower portion of the barn and hauled to other locations when necessary. Pit fans and beneficial insects were used to control fly larvae and help dry the manure.
However, nothing could help control the moisture caused by drainage problems and rainwater collection in the barns, Elder said.
Excessive rain last fall and this spring pushed water through barn foundation walls and soaked through manure piles, he said.
“A lot of the barns [at Croton] are old and need to be rebuilt, and I’m sure those [drainage] issues will be addressed at reconstruction,” Elder said.
Permits give the company until December 2006 to close and renovate the older barns at Croton.
Complaints. Complaints surfaced in the last few weeks when flies began to be a problem with residents living near the Croton barns, Fred Dailey said.
Department of agriculture inspectors are investigating all complaints against the egg farm registered by neighbors, according to Elder.
Inspectors are also keeping the farm’s complexes on their list of regular inspection visits.
Egg production. Ohio Fresh Eggs holds 12 permits for poultry complexes, including those in Croton in Licking County. Other facilities are located in Hardin and Wyandot counties.
The state’s goal is to bring Ohio Fresh Eggs into compliance with its permits, Agriculture Director Dailey said.
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at email@example.com.)
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