State Extends Deadline for Egg Farm Expansion Proposal

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(Host) The state has allowed a Canadian company more time to come up with a waste management plan for its Franklin County egg farm. The farm wants to add another 135,000 birds. But the expansion was dealt a setback last month, when a Burlington agricultural foundation said it wouldn’t accept manure from the new barn.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) The Vermont Egg Farm in Highgate already has 100,000 hens. It wants to build a new barn for another 135,000 birds. But before it can go ahead, it needs a “large farm” permit from the state Agriculture Department. The permit law requires that the farm have a plan to dispose of the tons of additional chicken manure.

Last month, the egg farm lost its disposal site when the Intervale Foundation in Burlington decided not to use the chicken waste in its compost operation. That put pressure on the egg farm to find another site. The large farm law says the state has to rule on an application within 45 business days of when it was deemed complete. The Agriculture Department had said the application was complete on February 19.

But Phil Benedict, the Department official who’s reviewing the application, says he stopped the clock and extended the deadline:

(Benedict) “We’ve deemed their application to be incomplete until they tell us how they’re going to manage all of the manure from the facility. When they resubmit their manure management plan, we’ll review it and start the clock again.”

(Dillon) Charles Storrow is the egg farm’s lawyer. He’s confident that the farm will find alternative sites for waste disposal:

(Storrow) “The day that that the story about the Intervale backing out broke, both myself and the folks at the Vermont Egg Farms received calls from other parties who were interested in receiving manure from the egg farm’s proposed second barn.”

(Dillon) But a coalition of farm and environmental groups is fighting the egg farm expansion. They call it a factory food operation that will pollute the environment and is not appropriate for Vermont. Coalition spokeswoman Alexis Lathem says the law doesn’t allow the state to stop the clock to give the egg farm more time:

(Lathem) “We think they shouldn’t just stop the clock. They should reject the application. The application is incomplete. They have no manure management plan.”

(Dillon) Lathem says the coalition is considering a legal challenge to the egg farm application.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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