Oregon ‘Mega-Dairy’ Trustee Decides to Shut Down Farm & Sell Herd

The appointed trustee of Lost Valley Farm, Randy Sugarman has made the decision to shut down the Boardman, Ore., operation and place it up for sale in March 2019.
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The appointed trustee of Lost Valley Farm, Randy Sugarman has made the decision to shut down the Boardman, Ore., operation and place it up for sale in March 2019, according to the Statesman Journal.

The 13,000-cow operation, or ‘mega-dairy’ as it is referred to by the public, has accumulated more than 200 violations to its wastewater permit during the past two years. The facility has also received the largest fine the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) has ever imposed on a dairy or other confined animal operation, totaling $187,320.

Sugarman, who was appointed by the State Bankruptcy judge, Fredrick Clement, to take over the operation, was given the task of resolving some of the issues originally created by Lost Valley’s previous owner, Greg te Velde.

According to Sugarman, the operation, which opened only 18 months ago, would need to invest $35 million to $40 million to meet its pollution permit requirements.

Te Velde began running the facility without a scale or feed shed, without a hospital barn, without a maternity and nursery barn, and without the understanding of how to operate and maintain the complex and partially defective waste management system, Sugarman said.

“Going forward, it will be necessary to find a new owner, one capable of obtaining any future permits and funding critical capital improvements,” Sugarman wrote.

The facility has also been cited with endangering nearby drinking wells in the Boardman community. Heavy amounts of manure distributed on fields could cause pollutants to reach groundwater within two years under water-saturated conditions, according to Kirk Cook, a geologist and program manager of ODA’s pesticide stewardship program.

"A permit never should have been granted for a facility that was only partially built, was so poorly designed and constructed, and which lacked the resources and permanent water rights needed to operate at such a massive scale," said Ivan Maluski, policy director for Friends of Family Farmers, in an interview with Statesman Journal. "Oregon's policy-makers need to take swift action to prevent this kind of thing from happening again, and before this troubled facility is simply sold to someone else," he said.

Te Velde, who has faced criminal charges on prostitution, attempted bribery and meth possession, originally agreed to disperse of his cattle in April. One day before the cattle sale, however, the owner filed for bankruptcy, putting the sale on hold. While the sale price of the facility has not yet been announced, Sugarman hopes to disperse of the cattle in the spring of next year.

On top of numerous fines accumulated during the past two years, te Velde has spent roughly $700,000 trying to comply with the legal settlement, according to Elizabeth Howard, his attorney. This is in addition to the $60 million loan te Velde took from Rabobank to build Lost Valley Farm. All unsecured creditors, which include the state of Oregon, Morrow County, and many Eastern Oregon businesses, are expected to be paid in full or close to it after the cattle are sold, Sugarman wrote.

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