What once aspired to be Oregon’s second-largest dairy with up to 30,000 cows, the failed Lost Valley Farm will soon be up for auction.
Lost Valley owner Greg te Velde filed for bankruptcy in April, and the court later appointed a trustee to run the operation in September after finding te Velde continued his longstanding pattern of gambling and illegal drug use. The trustee, Randy Sugarman, decided to close and sell the dairy by early 2019.
An auction is scheduled for Jan. 31, and at least one prospective buyer has submitted a bid to purchase Lost Valley’s assets — including land, water rights, equipment and property — for $66.9 million.
The company, identified as Canyon Farm LLC, is incorporated in Delaware but lists its address as a post office box in Pasco, Wash. Lost Valley and Canyon Farm filed an Asset Purchase Agreement with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Fresno, Calif., but it could be outbid at auction.
Liz Fuller, a spokeswoman for Lost Valley, said Canyon Farm is “experienced and respected, and meets stringent criteria set forth in the document,” but declined to provide more information about the bidder. An email sent to the company was not immediately returned, and no phone number was listed in the purchase agreement.
Lost Valley’s cattle herd and Confined Animal Feeding Operation, or CAFO, permit are not included in the purchase agreement. Fuller said the dairy has already auctioned off about 2,000 cows, or roughly 20 percent of the total herd. The remaining 8,000 cows will be auctioned by February, Fuller said.
Lost Valley courted significant public controversy even before opening in early 2017. Environmental groups vehemently opposed the dairy, which was expected to generate 187 million gallons of wastewater and manure annually.
Despite concerns about air and water pollution, the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Department of Environmental Quality jointly issued a CAFO permit for Lost Valley on March 31, 2017. The agencies promised the permit would require “the most extensive monitoring of any CAFO permitted facility to date.”
Almost immediately, Lost Valley began racking up violations related to waste management and storage. Regulators are now in the process of revoking the dairy’s permit.
Wym Matthews, CAFO program manager for the Department of Agriculture, said the sale of Lost Valley does not influence the agency’s effort to revoke the dairy’s permit. A revocation hearing is set for Feb. 19 before an administrative law judge.
“We’re still moving forward with that process,” Matthews said, though he added that the trustee and current manager are currently operating the facility in compliance with the permit requirements.
Fuller said Lost Valley is continuing negotiations to reach a settlement with the state. She said the dairy has hit or exceeded all benchmarks set by the state for cleanup. And “data from regular groundwater monitoring events and analysis by environmental experts has and continues to show that the dairy has not caused harm to public drinking water supplies or the environment.”
A coalition of environmental groups — including the Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, Animal Legal Defense Fund and Human Voters Oregon — also filed on Dec. 21 to intervene in support of the state’s effort to revoke the CAFO permit at Lost Valley.
“Petitioners … seek to address the harms of industrial animal feeding operations, including industrial mega-dairies, to Oregonians and Oregon’s environment, including through threats to air and water quality and human health from pollution, economic impacts to family farmers, and poor animal welfare,” the petition reads. “Petitioners have been engaged in the permitting of Lost Valley since it was first proposed, and commented along with thousands of their Oregon members.”