With contamination seeping into the soil from overfilled lagoons, the second largest dairy in Oregon, Lost Valley Farm, has only 60 days to remove 13,000 cows and clean their manure management system. After failing to comply with multiple violations, the operation now faces an uncertain future with the state revoking their waste management permit.
Built in April 2017, Lost Valley Farm has been in operation for only 15 months, however it has received numerous notices from the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) for improper waste management practices. Cited with endangering nearby drinking wells and groundwater, the owner, Greg te Velde, is now battling legal issues after failing several inspections, not reporting waste issues and leaving fines unpaid.
Working to overcome these violations, te Velde agreed to remove 75-acre feet, approximately 24.4 million gallons, of manure and wastewater from his lagoons by June 1, but he missed that deadline. As a result of building his dairy without first obtaining the proper permits, te Velede now faces a class action lawsuit worth $1.5 million.
In a statement made by ODA spokeswoman, Andrea Cantu-Schomus, “It is ODA’s position that Lost Valley Farm cannot comply with its (wastewater) permit after continued violations.”
Due to the amount of violations met without results, the state invalidated Lost Valley’s waste management permit on June 27. Te Velde pushed to keep his operation running despite losing this permit.
“I just want to stay low and work on these issues,” Te Velde said. “They’re not really public issues.”
While te Velde claims these issues are not for the public, his actions have raised concerns within the community, who see the facility as a 'mega dairy.' After refusing to install an accurate flow meter to measure the water taken out of the endangered aquifer supporting the Boardman community, the Oregon Water Department took control of a groundwater well te Velde had planned to tap into.
Without this well, the dairy is facing a sever water shortage and must now bring in water to flush stalls and wash machinery, costing approximately $11,500 a week.
As a means to repay some of the significant debt racked up over the past 15-months, te Velde agreed to disperse of his cattle in April. One day before the cattle sale, te Velde filed for bankruptcy, putting the sale on hold indefinitely, according to Statesman Journal. The dairy is now up for sale with a price tag of $95 million.
Along with the operation’s growing waste management issues, the Tillamook County Creamery Association is looking to exit their contract with Lost Valley Farm. Though te Velde claims the creamery cannot cancel his contract because of bad publicity, Tillamook continues to buy his milk as they await a court decision. Currently, the creamery is separately processing and pasteurizing the farm’s milk due to low milk quality and unacceptably high bacteria counts.
Owning two other failing dairies in the state of California, te Velde is facing foreclosure from Rabobank, a Dutch agriculture lender. Currently, the Lost Valley Farm owner is receiving treatment at Capo by the Sea, a drug and alcohol rehab clinic. According to, John Kahal, the clinic’s owner, te Velde manages to conduct business for three to four hours while remaining in treatment.
In a statement made by the bank in court, “Rabobank is not willing to finance the drug-addled fanciful dreams of this debtor during a lengthy Chapter 11 case that involves about 24,000 cows, 28,000 other head of livestock, three dairies in two states and about $160 million in total debt.”
With only 60 days to remove the cattle and clean up the farm, Lost Valley Farm may no longer being dealing with manure management violations as ODA officials expect the dairy to shut down within the coming weeks.
To read more about Lost Valley Farm, click here.