State fines Highgate egg farm for violations

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(Host) The state Agency of Agriculture says the Vermont Egg Farm in Highgate has violated its permit by improperly handling 65 tons of chicken manure.

The Agency says the manure pile was stacked in a field and contained flies and fly maggots.

Neighbors have complained in the past about a fly infestation they say was caused by the egg farm.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The egg farm has about 101-thousand birds and it operates under the state’s large farm law. The farm – which is owned by a Quebec company – wants state approval to more than double its size.

But the Agency of Agriculture says the farm has violated its current permit by improperly storing chicken manure. The farm is under orders to remove the manure to a nearby farm, where it’s supposed to be spread and plowed into the fields on the day that it’s delivered. But in a legal action filed this month, the agency says that in late August 65 tons of manure was left in the field uncovered for days.

Fran Bessette lives nearby the egg farm. In the late 1990s, her family’s dairy farm experienced a massive fly infestation caused by the egg farm. She’s worried about new fly problems.

(Bessette) Let’s put it this way where the pile of manure was found it’s about a mile, not even a mile and a half as the crow flies from our place. And those piles were bubbling with maggots. …. When you have a pile of manure uncovered – four piles actually – and covered with maggots and flies, where do you think they’re going to go?

(Dillon) The Agency of Agriculture proposed a $10,000 fine, but it said the fine would be reduced to $5,000 if the egg farm agreed to spread the manure as required.

Agency officials said they could not comment because the case is still pending,

Fran Bessette says she’s outraged that the state wants to cut the fine in half. She’s calling on the state to revoke the farm’s permit.

(Bessette) We’re pretty fed up with this. This has been going on for 10 years. This violation is just a little slap on the wrist… Five thousand dollars? They’re probably very glad to pay it.

(Dillon) The manager at the Egg Farm in Highgate said he did not want to comment on the state’s allegations. He said the manure storage issue has been addressed.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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