Oregon 'Mega-Dairy' Sold for $66.7 Million, Auctions off 8,000 Cows

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What was once the second largest dairy in the state of Oregon has officially been sold.

Lost Valley Farm, originally owned by Greg te Velde, has been purchased by the lone bidder, Canyon Farm LLC, for a hefty price tag of $66.7 million. Previously a 13,000-cow operation, the farm’s appointed trustee, Randy Sugarman, has auctioned off the last 8,360 animals and will close on the property March 1.

Now all that’s left is to clean up the 30 million gallons of manure and wastewater remaining on the property just outside of Boardman, according to a Statesman Journal article.

The decision to sell the farm comes after te Velde originally placed Lost Valley up for sale last year when he faced losing his waste management permit. The previous owner received numerous notices from the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) for improper waste management practices and was also cited for endangering nearby drinking wells and groundwater.

As a means to repay some of the $160 million in total debt racked up over the past year and a half, te Velde agreed to disperse of his cattle in April 2018. However, one day before the cattle sale, te Velde filed for bankruptcy, putting the sale on hold.

Appointed by a State bankruptcy judge to take over the operation, Sugarman was given the task of resolving some of the issues originally created by te Velde. After working for several months to make improvements, Sugarman concluded that the facility would need to invest $35 million to $40 million to meet all of its pollution permit requirements.

“Going forward, it will be necessary to find a new owner, one capable of obtaining any future permits and funding critical capital improvements,” Sugarman said in an interview with the East Oregonian.

Although Canyon Farm LLC has purchased Lost Valley, there are complications regarding the sale that still need to be settled.

Boardman Tree Farm, a nearby timber operation and tourist hot-spot, sold the dairy property to te Velde in 2015, but leased back about 40 percent of the acreage where it continued to grow poplar trees, according to the Statesman Journal.

As te Velde’s manure management problem grew, it became clear that disposing of the manure on the leased property was not an option.

“The estate did not have sufficient land under irrigation pivots to dispose of this material at the rate allowed by Oregon Department of Agriculture, since much of the (land) was still under the lease-back to Boardman Tree Farm,” the trustee wrote in court documents. “Thus, more waste was being generated than could be lawfully disposed by land application.”

Working with the ODA, Boardman Tree Farm has agreed to clear that land of timber and tree stumps by the end of 2019, although it has an option to extend the date until the end of 2020, according to Statesman Journal.

Due to the controversy revolving around Lost Valley Farm, two bills have been proposed to the state legislature that could make Oregon dairy regulations the toughest in the nation,reports the Oregon State Journal.

The bills would apply to large dairies, those with more than 2,500 cows or herds with more than 1,000 animal units that don’t have access to seasonal pasture. Both bills would declare these types of dairies as industrial operations, not farming or agricultural, and thus require more oversight.

While it remains uncertain as to what the new owner will do with this purchase, it’s clear that the farm will need a deep cleaning before it can be deemed fit for operation.

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