Lost Valley Farm

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has resolved a dispute with a bankruptcy trustee over the cleanup of Lost Valley Farm dairy outside Boardman, Ore.

A controversial dairy’s operator has resolved a disagreement with Oregon farm regulators over cleaning up the facility, which has repeatedly violated wastewater regulations.

Lost Valley Farm of Boardman, Ore., is slated to be put up for sale next month for about $67 million to help pay off the creditors of owner Greg te Velde, who lost control of the facility to a bankruptcy trustee last year.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture had objected to the sale because the dairy’s roughly 47 million gallons of manure pose an environmental risk that must be remediated.

Under a deal reached with ODA, the bankruptcy trustee running the facility, Randy Sugarman, has agreed to clean up the facility before the sale or to transfer that obligation to the new owner, unless the dairy is decommissioned by the end of October.

The agency will also be able to file a claim in bankruptcy court to recoup cleanup costs if the trustee or new owner doesn’t live up to the cleanup agreement and $500,000 from the dairy sale will be set aside for such costs.

Once the remaining cows at the facility are removed and sold by mid-April, the dairy will operate under a new “confined animal feeding operation” permit aimed solely at cleaning up the manure.

“The cleanup permit doesn’t allow any animals to be there, so there couldn’t be any livestock on the site,” said Wym Matthews, manager of ODA’s CAFO program.

The settlement also ends the ODA’s process for revoking Lost Valley’s CAFO permit, which is necessary for the dairy to continue operating.

Once the dairy is cleaned up or decommissioned, the existing CAFO permit will expire, he said. “A new owner will need to start from scratch and apply for a new permit from day one.”

Wastewater violations at Lost Valley Farm began shortly after te Velde began operating the facility in 2017, leading ODA to fine the facility more than $10,000 and seek a restraining order against its operations last year.

A legal settlement with te Velde allowed the dairy to continue operating, but continued wastewater problems led ODA to obtain a contempt of court order against him and to begin revocation of his CAFO permit.

Financial problems at Lost Valley Farm prompted te Velde to file for bankruptcy protection to prevent a forced auction of his cattle, but the judge overseeing that case ultimately turned over control of the facility to the trustee due to te Velde’s gambling and financial mismanagement.

The highly visible controversy over Lost Valley’s environmental violations has led to the introduction of legislation that would treat large Oregon dairies as industrial facilities, stripping them of “right to farm” protections and subjecting them to new restrictions.

I've been working at Capital Press since 2006 and I primarily cover legislative, regulatory and legal issues.

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