By Nancy Allen
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) is accepting comments on draft permits for Warnock Poultry Farm, Fort Recovery, to increase its operation to almost 300,000 laying hens.
The ODA will hold an informational session at 7 p.m. May 13 at the Gibson Township Trustee House, 1700 Industrial Drive, Fort Recovery, to answer questions from the public on the draft permits.
The farm has the current capacity to house 99,999 laying hens in one high-rise barn. A permit to install (PTI) and a permit to operate (PTO) would allow owner Melvin "Al" Warnock Jr. to construct another high-rise barn to house an additional 199,564 laying hens at his farm at 196 Fox Road.
Layer hen operations with more than 100,000 birds, which is equal to 1,000 animal units, are required to get the ODA permits.
ODA spokesperson Deborah Abbott classified the Warnock farm as a "pretty small" poultry operation. In comparison, the ODA last month OK'd permits for Rindler Poultry Farm in St. Henry to increase its operation to almost 1.3 million laying hens, one of the larger operations in the county once the expansion is complete. Abbott said Warnock Poultry Farm has no record of any environmental problems.
Warnock Poultry Farm's draft PTO is for the entire farm and is to regulate operations with plans for manure management, insect and rodent control, management of dead birds and emergency response in the case of manure runoff that could cause pollution. It would be valid for a five-year period after which Warnock would be required to renew the operating permit.
Abbott said the existing barn has storage capacity for 105,280 cubic feet of dry manure, equal to 495 days of storage. The proposed new barn would have storage capacity for 128,016 cubic feet of dry manure, equal to 302 days of storage. All the manure is moved off farm, Abbott said.
The public also can submit written comments on the draft permits and may request a public meeting until 5 p.m. May 27. Written comments can be submitted in person or sent to ODA's Livestock Environmental Permitting Program. If there is significant interest, a public meeting will be held.
A copy of the draft permits can be viewed by the public at the Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District office located in the Mercer County Central Services Building in Celina. People wanting to view the draft permits should call ahead at 419-586-3289 to make an appointment. Written comments cannot be submitted to the Mercer SWCD office.
More information can be found about Warnock Poultry Farm's draft permits on the Livestock Environmental Permitting Program's Web page at www.ohioagriculture.gov/lepp.stm.