By Nancy Allen
The Ohio Department of Agriculture has approved permits for Hopewell Dairy LLC, a 2,100-cow Dutch dairy in Hopewell Township near Rockford.
Albertus DeBruyn, of Rockford, who moved from the Netherlands more than a year ago, said Friday night he is pleased with the ODA's decision. DeBruyn will be the herdsman at the dairy, responsible for breeding the cows and ensuring their health.
J.C.J. Van Der Meijden of the Netherlands, who will be the sole owner of the dairy, was unavailable for comment. ODA officials have said Van Der Meijden plans to relocate to the area once the permits are approved.
"After all the investigation from the ODA and the research and after the hearings, I think we could expect it," DeBruyn said of the ODA's decision to grant the permit.
Claudia Sidenbender, who lives on Township Line Road, immediately across from there the dairy would be built, said she is disappointed in the ODA's decision and is upset with the Mike and Roger Hawk family, who is selling the ground to Van Der Meijden for the mega dairy. "He is really burning a lot of bridges and upsetting a lot of people and it's really out of greed," Sidenbender said Friday night. "We all wonder why it had to be out there and why they couldn't put it out by their home and put the smelly mega farm near their home."
A group of residents, many of them neighbors of the proposed mega farm, have opposed the dairy, signing a petition more than a year ago when the draft permits were first filed and attending ODA public hearings on the matter held last month. Sixty people attended an informational meeting on the dairy and 60 attended a second meeting to provide oral testimony on the dairy. At the second meeting, five neighbors spoke against the dairy and four others spoke in favor of it. Those who spoke for it included two veterinarians not from Mercer County who do work for mega farms in Ohio and Indiana and two others who are associated with Mercer Landmark, a feed retailer.
Some residents said they are still wary of DeBruyn's involvement in the dairy, even though ODA officials say he will have no part in managing the operation. DeBruyn's name was originally on the ODA's permits for the dairy, but he withdrew it shortly after Vreba-Hoff Dairy Development, Wauseon, brought past environmental violations to the ODA's attention. DeBruyn's name was then replaced with that of Van Der Meijden. DeBruyn's violations involved manure pollution from a dairy he operated in New Zealand. Vreba-Hoff was helping DeBruyn navigate the ODA's livestock permitting process.
Ohio law considers farms with more than 699 mature dairy cows to be industrial, or mega farms, which need ODA permits to operate and construct facilities. Mega farm owners also must agree to inspections every five years and have written plans for dealing with large amounts of manure, insect and rodent control and dead animals.
Nov. 3 is the deadline for filing an appeal with the Environmental Review Appeals Commission by anyone contesting the ODA permits.
Mercer County officials have said they intend to pursue a grant or create a tax-increment finance (TIF) district to fund improvements to the road leading to the dairy to accommodate increased truck traffic. A TIF district diverst additional taxes raised through real estate improvements back into infrastructure, including roads.
The ODA permits would allow the construction of 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 operation would produce roughly 20 million gallons of liquid manure, 6 million gallons of stormwater and milkhouse wash water and 2 million gallons of sand solids annually. Sand is used as bedding for the cows.
About 2,725 acres of cropland are available to spread the manure on.
For more information on the Hopewell permit or any others in the state, log onto www.ohioagriculture.gov and click on regulatory programs, then click on Livestock Environmental Permitting Program.