There’s only one farmer that Iowa has ever declared a “habitual violator” of environmental laws: Austin “Jack” DeCoster. The Associated Press reports that one of DeCoster’s egg farms is now at the heart of a salmonella outbreak.
DeCoster gained control of this egg farm only after working around a ban issued in 2000 that meant to prevent him from establishing any new animal farms until November 2004.
Instead of waiting for the ban to end, it’s believed that DeCoster had his associates gain approval for a large egg farm in 2001, which went by the name Environ Eggs – the same egg farm connected to the salmonella recall.
Eventually, Environ transferred ownership to another company, Environ/Wright County Inc., which leases the farm to DeCoster’s company, Wright County Egg.
By 2007, DeCoster claimed outright ownership over Environ/Wright County Inc.
The Associated Press speculates that DeCoster used similar tactics to gain permits in other states:
In Ohio in 2004, state officials say DeCoster hid behind other farmers to get permits for an operation called Ohio Fresh Eggs. The permits listed two men who had put up just $10,000 apiece while DeCoster had pumped $126 million into the four farms, according to testimony in an administrative proceeding there.
Ohio officials yanked the permits after learning about that, but an environmental appeals panel overturned that decision.
In the 1990s, DeCoster battled with Maryland officials who tried to shut down an Eastern Shore egg facility owned by DeCoster, who was accused of violating a quarantine by selling contaminated eggs.
DeCoster successfully sued the state in 1992, arguing that Maryland could not stop him from selling across state lines. He later received a suspended $500 fine for selling eggs from quarantined henhouses. He left the state in 1993.