Easterday Farms, based in Pasco, Wash., purchased the former Lost Valley Farm near Boardman, Ore., in 2019, hoping to operate the facility with up to 9,700 mature dairy cows, 8,600 dairy heifers and 10,000 non-dairy cattle.
Earlier this year, one of the farm’s co-owners, Cody Easterday, pleaded guilty to defrauding Tyson Foods of $233 million as part of a “ghost cattle” scheme, selling more than 200,000 head of cattle that existed only on paper.
However, Cody Easterday’s name is still listed as the operator of Easterday Farms Dairy on its Confined Animal Feeding Operation, or CAFO, permit, which was previously submitted to the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Department of Environmental Quality.
Cody Easterday’s son, Cole Easterday, has since taken over as manager of Easterday Farms Dairy LLC after purchasing his father’s interest in the business. But according to Oregon state law, the name listed on the CAFO application must be the owner or operator of the facility.
Accordingly, ODA and DEQ announced they are giving Cody Easterday until July 15 to withdraw the application or it will be denied.
ODA spokeswoman Andrea Cantu-Schomus said the current application cannot be transferred to another individual or entity, meaning Cole Easterday would have to submit an entirely new CAFO permit application.
That includes detailed plans about how the farm will manage an estimated 5.4 million cubic feet of liquid manure, 5.9 million cubic feet of solid manure and 11.7 million cubic feet of processed wastewater annually.
Cole Easterday declined comment when reached Friday.
“Oregon is in the throes of a record-breaking, climate change-fueled heat wave and drought that will be worsened by a mega-dairy’s massive greenhouse gas emissions and water waste,” said coalition organizer Kristina Beggen.
Beggen said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown must step in deny the permit, “no matter who the applicant is.”
The dairy in question began as Lost Valley Farm, under the management of California dairyman Greg te Velde. Within a year of opening in 2018, the dairy racked up more than 200 violations of its CAFO permit, including open-air lagoons overflowing with manure.
The 5,390-acre property is in the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area, designated by DEQ in 1990 for elevated levels of groundwater nitrates.
Te Velde eventually declared bankruptcy and the dairy was taken over by a trustee who sold it at auction. Easterday Farms bought the property for $66.7 million, and promised to invest $15 million upgrading the farm’s wastewater facilities.
The sale did not include Lost Valley Farm’s cattle, and no animals are currently allowed on site.
Farms and ranches owned by the Easterday family in southeast Washington were auctioned to pay off the company’s debts.
An investment group with ties to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was the high bidder for more than 33,000 acres of Easterday land in Benton County.
In a previous interview, Cole Easterday said he and his brothers, Clay and Cutter, are now the sole owners Easterday Dairy LLC, and are not involved in Easterday Ranches.