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Permit transfer approved for controversial dairy

A controversial Eastern Oregon dairy is officially under new ownership, though it will likely be months before state regulators decide if the facility can reopen.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has approved the transfer of the former Lost Valley Farm in Boardman to Easterday Farms based in Pasco, Wash.

Easterday bought the property for $66.7 million last year.

Lost Valley Farm opened in 2017 and was permitted for up to 30,000 cows, making it the second-largest dairy in Oregon.

However, under previous owner Greg te Velde, Lost Valley almost immediately began violating the conditions of its permit for improperly handling and storing manure.

Te Velde declared bankruptcy in April 2018 amid allegations of persistent drug use and gambling. Later that year, he was stripped of his control over Lost Valley — along with two other dairies in California — and a federal trustee was put in charge.

The trustee, Randy Sugarman, decided to close and sell the dairy but was first responsible for cleaning up the site. On Dec. 30, 2019, ODA issued a “letter of satisfaction” for the cleanup, which included removing all cows, flushing barns and emptying wastewater lagoons.

ODA recently transferred the “zero-animal clean-up permit” to Easterday Farms, though the dairy cannot reopen until the state approves a new Confined Animal Feeding Operation, or CAFO, permit. Easterday Farms has applied for a new CAFO permit, which is under review and expected to go out for public comment this summer.

Oregon’s CAFO program is jointly managed by ODA and the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Easterday Farms Dairy would have up to 28,300 cattle, with 8,000 mature dairy cows and 2,650 heifers housed under roof along with 1,700 mature cows and 5,950 heifers in open confinement. The farm plans to invest $15 million to bring the operation into full environmental compliance.

According to the CAFO application, the dairy will generate roughly 5.4 million cubic feet of liquid manure, 5.9 million cubic feet of solid manure and 11.7 million cubic feet of processed wastewater annually. The nitrogen-rich manure will be stored in lagoons and used for fertilizer on 5,390 acres of surrounding farmland, growing crops such as potatoes, onions and forage for the cows.

A coalition of environmental and animal rights groups has called for Oregon to reject the dairy’s permit and declare a moratorium on “mega-dairies,” citing the failure of Lost Valley Farm.

ODA has attributed problems at Lost Valley to poor management, and would look to Easterday Farms to achieve and maintain CAFO compliance going forward.


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