Revocation Hearings for Ohio Fresh Eggs Begins

Hearings began today in an attempt by the Ohio Department of Agriculture to revoke all permits granted to Ohio Fresh Eggs. The company produces millions of eggs a day at facilities in Licking, Hardin, and Wyandotte counties.

Only a few years ago, it was the name Anton Pohlmann that was under scrutiny. Pohlmann came to Ohio in the early 1980s and bought several thousand acres of Licking County farmland. That was the birth of the Buckeye Egg Farm – an operation that still generates controversy just like flies that bloom from poultry manure. Germany’s so-called chicken baron is gone now, but the legacy he left remains.

“We have flies, horribly,” says Becky Kilber. “At times we have odor. I just had a son graduate and we had to have his graduation party way away from home so that we could enjoy it. We just tried to have a Memorial Day picnic. We had to go inside.”

Becky Kibler is a member of Concerned Citizens of Central Ohio. She lives near a former Buckeye facility that’s now under new ownership and management that does business as Ohio Fresh Eggs. Kibler was one of several Ohioans who attended the first day of ODA’s permit revocation hearings. Central to these hearings is the name Austin “Jack” DeCoster. According to an agriculture spokeswoman, Ohio Fresh Eggs failed to disclose in its permit applications that DeCoster would be a part of the new operation. If it had, says Melanie Wilt, ODA might never have granted the permits.

“There was information that we believe was missing from the permit application,” says Wilt. “It was the name of a manager of the facility, Austin Jack DeCoster, who, during a background check, we would have found had been labeled as a habitual environmental violator in Iowa.”

In opening arguments Tuesday the agriculture department’s Scott Holkowski said DeCoster had “engineered a back door purchase of Ohio Fresh Eggs” and that records showed DeCoster had a $126 million investment in the operation.

The company has denied that DeCoster had any involvement in daily management. Company attorneys won’t present arguments until ODA completes its presentation — which will probably be next week. Ohio Fresh Eggs has already asked that all evidence be excluded that dates to after February 2, 2004, the day the last permit was granted by ODA.

Last February, the agriculture department ordered the destruction of 4-point-3 million of the company’s eggs as unfit for consumption because they had not been refrigerated.