Commissioner denies egg farm expansion application

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(Host) Agriculture Commissioner Leon Graves has rejected a proposed expansion of a Highgate egg farm. Graves says the project failed to meet the manure management requirements set out in the state’s large farm law.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) A Quebec company wants to add another 135,000 birds to the 100,000 already housed at the site in Highgate. But state agriculture officials said the expansion project could result in a severe fly infestation that overwhelmed the farm’s neighbors several years ago.

The farm wanted to rely on up to ten contractors to dispose of the manure off-site. But Department spokesman Jason Aldous says there weren’t enough guarantees that the manure would be safely stored and managed.

(Aldous) “Basically what the ruling says, that there were concerns over the structure of the manure management plan and how the manure from Barn #2 would be dealt with, and the reliance on second party and third party contractors to deal with that. And as a result about the questions about manure management, there was a serious concern about the potential return of the fly problem that plagued the facility in its early years.”

(Dillon) The farm’s lawyer, Charles Storrow of Montpelier, says he was surprised and disappointed by the ruling. He says there seems to be some contradictory findings in the ruling. Storrow says his client hasn’t yet read the decision and hasn’t decided whether to appeal.

Patty Britch leaves near the egg farm and is coordinator of Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, a group that opposes the project. Britch was elated by the decision. She says that when the farm first started, the flies multiplied by the millions and swarmed over the neighborhood.

(Britch) “It was so bad back in ’97, ’98. I mean the house was just full. You couldn’t cook. You couldn’t sleep. You had to sleep with a fan to keep flies off of you. It was horrible.”

(Dillon) The state decision notes that the egg farm has greatly reduced the fly problem by removing the manure on a regular basis. But Agriculture Commissioner Graves says the farm didn’t show that it could handle the additional manure without breeding an unacceptable amount of flies.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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