Oregon farm regulators have issued a fine of more than $187,000 to a Boardman dairy, citing more than 220 violations of its wastewater permit between last December and late August.
Among the alleged violations by Lost Valley Farm are unauthorized manure discharges, storing too much manure in lagoons, repeatedly applying manure to fields without first installing required soil moisture sensors and keeping excessive numbers of mature cattle.
The dairy has until early November to challenge the civil penalties issued by the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s confined animal feeding program before an administrative judge.
“It is the largest CAFO penalty we’ve ever issued,” said Wym Matthews, the program manager.
None of the violations were that severe on their own, but they added up over time, he said. “The same thing happened continually without repair.”
Lost Valley Farm was recently put under new management after its owner, Greg te Velde, lost control of the facility’s operations in bankruptcy proceedings and the reins were handed to a federal trustee. Two other dairies, both in California, were also put under the trustee’s control.
ODA expects to proceed with its revocation of the dairy’s confined animal feeding operation permit even if the trustee, accountant Randy Sugarman, cleans up the facility’s act, said Matthews.
“Our unwavering aim is to revoke this permit. Whoever’s name is on it, we’re going to revoke it,” Matthews said at an Oct. 11 meeting of the CAFO advisory committee in Salem.
Lost Valley Farm is challenging the revocation of its CAFO permit through an administrative process, and a hearing on the matter is scheduled for Nov. 13.
Even if the dairy is brought into regulatory compliance, its past actions — such as manure lagoon overflows — warrant the revocation, and the ODA has lost all trust in te Velde’s management, Matthews said.
Even if the facility operated properly over the short term, the agency has no confidence that te Velde could keep up the compliance, he said.
The ODA anticipates arguing in bankruptcy court that its revocation of Lost Valley’s permit isn’t subject to the “automatic stay” that protects the company against adverse creditor actions under the bankruptcy process, Matthews said.
“Do you allow a facility to continue to violate state and federal laws?” he said.
While the facility does have some design flaws, ODA believes the wastewater problems were fundamentally caused by improper operations, he said.
If the dairy is eventually sold to repay te Velde’s creditors, the new owner would have to apply for a new CAFO permit, Matthews said.