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Published: Friday, 12/1/2006

Egg producer's permit revoked


COLUMBUS - The state's agriculture department revoked the operating permits of Ohio's largest egg producer yesterday, saying the company filed false or misleading information about ties to an investor accused of violating environmental laws in other states.

Ohio Fresh Eggs has nearly 14 million chickens on a dozen farms in Hardin, Wyandot, and Licking counties.

Agriculture officials say the company didn't disclose that Jack DeCoster, who was labeled a "habitual violator" of environmental laws in Iowa, was involved in day-to-day operations for Ohio Fresh Eggs.

"We expect compliance from all farms, regardless of size, and while the majority of Ohio farms are managed with honesty and integrity, Ohio law is very clear that permits based on false or misleading information must be revoked," said Howard Wise, an assistant director of the agriculture department.

Ohio Fresh Eggs spokesman Harry Palmer said the company will appeal the state department's decision.

"We expected it," he said. "We've just got to prepare for the next leg."

He said the farms were operating well and would continue to do so.

A hearing officer concluded in November that Mr. DeCoster has an agreement with Ohio Fresh Eggs owners giving him the right to approve hiring or firing of senior management, as well as the right to control management of the farms.

Because Mr. DeCoster was not listed as a controlling manager with Ohio Fresh Eggs, the state did not do a background check on him, said department spokesman Bill Schwaderer.

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