Two Years After Oregon’s Most Notorious Dairy Farm Shut Down, Environmental Groups Fear a Similar Disaster Could Happen in the Same Location

According to Jennifer Hauge and Brian Posewitz of Stand Up to Factory Farms, Oregon hasn’t learned from the Lost Valley Farms incident.

Cows along the Oregon Coast. (Alex Wittwer)

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Two years ago, it seemed like the saga of one of Oregon's most notorious dairy farms had come to an end.

Over its mere 18-month existence, Lost Valley Farms in Boardman, Ore., racked up over 200 environmental citations and almost $200,000 in fines for violations that included manure overflow seeping into soil, livestock standing in inches of its own filth and a trailer stuffed with dead cows.

When the dairy declared bankruptcy in April 2018, the Oregon Department of Agriculture demanded a cleanup of the site. Regulators deemed the cleanup complete more than a year later, on Dec. 30, 2019.

Related: Department of Agriculture Declares Environmental Cleanup of Eastern Oregon Mega-Dairy Site Complete.

But according to Jennifer Hauge and Brian Posewitz of Stand Up to Factory Farms, Oregon hasn't learned from the Lost Valley incident.

"Since then, what's happened is not a lot," says Hauge. "There's been some regulatory reform that's happened, but not enough to meaningfully close the holes that we think exist."

Stand Up to Factory Farms is a coalition of animal welfare groups, small farmers and environmentalists—Hauge works for the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Posewitz is an attorney for WaterWatch of Oregon and director of Humane Voters Oregon. The group is advocating for two recently introduced bills that would put a halt on permits for mega-dairies—defined as dairies with over 2,500 cows—until stricter regulations are imposed.

The organization formed because its members fear another mega-dairy disaster—the land formerly occupied by Lost Valley could soon be home to another mega-dairy.

Easterday Farms bought the property in 2019 with the intent of housing more than 28,000 cows, again making the site the second-largest dairy in the state. The company is now in the processes of applying for permits to begin operations.

In a strange twist, Easterday Ranches filed bankruptcy earlier this week after Tyson Foods Inc. sued the company for $225 million, alleging that Easterday billed Tyson for 200,000 cattle that never existed. Easterday Farms, owned by the same family but technically a separate entity, has not declared bankruptcy.

WW talked to Hauge and Posewitz about what they believe needs to change to prevent another Lost Valley.

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