By Nancy Allen
A group formed with the purpose of improving the water quality of Grand Lake St. Marys is concerned about a proposal that could bring thousands of hogs to Mercer and Auglaize counties.
Lake Restoration Committee Chairman Vic Woodall said he heard Minster Farmers Co-op Exchange is seeking a number of contract hog farmers to run large hog operations in the area. No one from the co-op was available to comment this morning.
LRC member Thomas Rampe was appointed at a Monday meeting to research the issue and discuss it with Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District officials.
Rampe said he has heard the co-op may want to have as many as 40 barns in both counties, housing 2,000 finishing hogs each. Finishing hogs are raised from about 50 pounds to 250, when they can be sold for slaughter. Two thousand hogs is under the number that requires an Ohio Department of Agriculture permit to operate.
"The main thing is we don't know exactly where they are going to put the barns or how many of these, if any, are going to be in the watershed," Rampe said. Grand Lake St. Marys Watershed Project Coordinator Heather Buck said no one has contacted the Mercer SWCD office about the hog expansion plan, but added it is not required that anyone do so. She first heard of the hog expansion plan about a month ago and said one or two barns already have been put up in the county.
"If would definitely increase the animal and manure concentration," Buck said of the supposed hog expansion plan. "It would be less of a concern if we know if the right steps were being followed, the placement of these operations, if they have enough acres to spread the manure on and adequate manure storage."
Buck said the SWCD office, county Farm Service Agency offices and county OSU Extension offices all have staff and technical resources to aid livestock operations to be proactive in their management practices. She also worried that if the number of hog barns is high, that regulatory agencies would keep a keener eye on producers.
"We certainly hope everybody knows there are agencies out there to help and definitely take advantage of those," she said. "Some of the agencies also supply cost share funds for things such as best management practices, manure storage, animal buildings and drainage issues."
In another issue, Celina Community Development Consultant Kent Bryan told LRC members the city plans to go after technology and funding to bring the city's drinking water treatment plant into Ohio EPA compliance. The lake is the city's sole source of drinking water.
"At the city level we have been discussing water quality of the lake at great extent and the dollars are out there, but it's going to take all these groups working together," Bryan said. "We are willing to be that conduit to get these dollars."
Bryan said the next step is to get the city involved with the different lake groups.