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04-24-03: Fort Recovery farm gets permits
ODA allows hog farm expansion

The Daily Standard
    The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) has issued permits to Osterholt Farm, 1289 Burrville Road, Fort Recovery, to add a deep pit hog barn to house 960 more hogs.
    Once the hogs are added to the operation, it would bring the total number to 2,880.
    Local interest in the farm expansion was almost nonexistent, except for one written comment sent to the ODA.
    No one attended an open house March 25 at the Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) office in Celina held for ODA personnel to field questions from the public about the Osterholt permits, nor did the Mercer SWCD have anyone request copies of the permits or come in to view, officials said.
    The ODA received just one written comment from a Michigan woman who owns some land in the area near the Osterholt farm, said ODA spokeswoman Melanie Wilt. Sally Pool of Engadine, Mich., asked if the farm had any complaints against it, which it did not. She also asked if there had been any problems with ground water contamination or air quality issues, which there were none, Wilt said, adding that Ohio does not have any air quality regulations.
    This is only the second set of permits in the state that have been drafted by the ODA under new rules that transferred the legal authority for regulating Ohio's large livestock farmers from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to the ODA.
    Two permits were approved for the Osterholt's operation < a Permit to Install (PTI) and a Permit To Operate (PTO).
    According to the ODA, the PTI will allow the installation of a 190-by-40-foot hog finishing barn with an eight-foot deep manure pit underneath.
    The PTO will regulate operations associated with manure management, insect and rodent control, management of dead livestock and emergency response for the entire farm, such as in the case of manure runoff that could cause pollution.
    The permits were approved on April 21 and can be appealed within 30 days to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission, 236 E. Town St., Columbus, OH 43215.
    The Osterholt farm, located in Gibson Township, currently houses 1,920 finishing hogs and 6,000 turkey poults (young birds).
    ODA spokeswoman Deborah Abbott earlier said there are 25 other large animal farms in Mercer County that have similar permits. Such permits are required if the number of animal units reaches a certain amount, Abbot said.
    The Osterholt farm size-wise is actually one of the smaller operations in the county of those requiring permits, Abbot said.
    The estimated 581,375 gallons of liquid manure generated by the 2,880 hogs would be land applied on 300 acres of land, the ODA says. The farm's turkey manure is taken away from the farm.
    On Aug. 19, 2002, the ODA's Livestock Environmental Permit-ting Program began implementing rules regulating Ohio's largest livestock and poultry farms with more than 1,000 animal units. The rules established construction standards for all new and existing large livestock and poultry farms; all aspects of manure storage, handling, transportation and land-application by these farms; a farm's insect and rodent control plans; and compliance and enforcement procedures.
     On every new PTI and PTO, the ODA will hold a 30-day comment period for people who have questions or concerns about planned farm expansions. The ODA also will make the permits available locally for public review. In her written comments, Pool also asked ODA officials how often the deep manure pits on the farm would be inspected.
    Wilt said all farmers applying for new PTIs and PTOs will have their facilities looked at initially by ODA officials, but that any official inspections of facilities after they have been installed would be random, unless a specific complaint is received about a farm.
    "We do follow up on complaints and do inspections that we initiate on our own. We are scheduling them now so folks know when we are coming," Wilt said. "As we get farther along, the inspections will become more and more random."
    Wilt said the ODA is required to inspect at least 25 megafarms a year. Since last August, the ODA has inspected 90, she said.
    "There will be an attempt made to inspect everyone equally and have some systematic order to it," Wilt said.


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