By Nancy Allen
Rockford-area residents are prepared to fight a proposal by a Dutch farmer to set up a 2,100-cow megafarm in their neighborhood.
Todd Henkle, 3303 Tama Road, who lives just west of the site of the proposed Hopewell Dairy LLC, said 43 families signed a petition opposing the large dairy operation. Copies of the petition were given to the Mike and Roger Hawk families, who have a deal to sell 158 acres of their land to the Dutch farmer, contingent upon the farmer getting the necessary permits to set up the megafarm.
"This is where I planned to live the rest of my life. I built my home here, and I'm raising my family here," Henkle said this morning. "I'm not against farming, just this big corporate farming. Someone who sells their land off to a foreigner who wants to bring this type of corporate farming here must not care too much about their neighbors. This is going to change our lifestyle out here."
The original application to set up the megafarm was filed by Albertus DeBruyn of the Netherlands, but he has since removed his name. The new applicant is J.C.J. Van Der Meijden of the Netherlands. Van Der Meijden was unavailable for comment this morning, as any questions from the media would have to be translated.
Ohio law considers farms with more than 699 mature dairy cows an industrial farm, and as such are required to receive Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) permits to operate, agree to inspections and have written plans for safely dealing with large amounts of manure. The application for Hopewell Dairy LLC is being developed by Vreba-Hoff Dairy Development, Waeseon. The company has been helping mostly Dutch dairies from the Netherlands and others set up shop in the United States for about six years. ODA currently has issued draft permits for the dairy to set up at the corner of Tama and Township Line roads, four miles southwest of Rockford. As part of the permitting process, ODA has scheduled two sessions for the public.
A public information session, used to explain the project, will be held at 7 p.m. Aug. 2 at the Mercer County Central Services Building in Celina. A public meeting, used to hear testimony, is set for 7 p.m. Aug. 24, also at the Central Services Building.
According to an ODA fact sheet on the proposed dairy, Van Der Meijden has applied for a permit to install (PTI) and a permit to operate (PTO).
The PTI is to build free-stall barns with two able to house 893 mature dairy cows each and the third able to house 314 mature dairy cows. The larger free-stall barns are roughly 500-feet-long by 108 feet wide and the smaller one would be about 220 feet long by 108 feet wide.
The PTO would regulate operations with plans for manure management, insect and rodent control, management of dead livestock and emergency responses dealing with releases of manure or others.
The operation would produce roughly 20 million gallons of liquid manure, 5 million gallons of milkhouse wash water and 2 million gallons of sand solids, an ODA official said. Sand is used as bedding for cows. The operation also would produce 6 million gallons of contaminated stormwater from the silage storage pad.
All manure from the dairy would be land applied on cropland of the Hawk family, who would grow feed for the dairy. About 2,725 acres of cropland is available for manure application.
The dairy would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and employ between 16 and 18 full-time workers on three shifts. Cows would be milked three times a day, Kimberly Badtke, a spokesperson for Vreba-Hoff, said this morning.
Henkle charged that there are far more negatives than positives associated with the proposed dairy. He also is angry with ODA, which has never denied a permit since it took over the permitting process from Ohio EPA.
"It's just kind of disturbing that ODA is going to let cattle farming come into play like they have," he said. "Small farms are going to be a thing of the past if ODA lets this keep happening. They are just killing the small family farm."