BOARDMAN — Oregon officials have given Cody Easterday 15 days to withdraw his application to operate a controversial mega-dairy in Boardman, just south of the Tri-Cities.
The application, which has been in the permitting process for two years, was filed naming Easterday as the owner or operator of Easterday Farms Dairy LLC.
But around the same time the president of one of the largest agricultural operations in Washington state was pleading guilty to wire fraud and trying to protect his businesses with bankruptcy filings, his 24-year-old son bought all of his father’s interest in the proposed Oregon facility.
It is not known how much Cole Easterday paid for the operation.
But, now that Cole Easterday is listed as manager of the corporation and Cody Easterday’s name has been removed from official paperwork, the confined animal feeding operation application is no longer valid.
Under Oregon’s laws governing confined animal feeding operation, or CAFOs, the applicant listed must be the owner or operator of the facility.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture sent out a news release Thursday, July 1, saying the state has requested that Cody Easterday withdraw his application.
The agency has not ruled out whether it will consider an application filed by another person on behalf of the dairy.
If Cody Easterday does not withdraw by the July 15 deadline, the Oregon departments of agriculture and environmental quality will issue an order denying the application because it is inconsistent with state regulations, according to the news release.
Online Oregon corporation records show the annual report was amended March 17 to reflect Cole Easterday as manager.
Two days later, another document was filed saying that Easterday Farms Dairy — first registered in Oregon on March 20, 2019 — is now to be known as Easterday Dairy LLC.
It is a Washington corporation with a North Industrial Way address in Pasco, just like the other family-owned businesses, Easterday Ranches and Easterday Farms.
The Easterdays bought the embattled Lost Valley Farm in April 2019 after troubled owner Greg te Velde was forced to shut down the dairy and sell the cattle in his own bankruptcy case.
The reported $66.7 million purchase price covered the property but not the cows.
Cody Easterday applied in June 2019 for a CAFO permit for a large-scale, commercial dairy and feedlot with 28,300 cattle near Boardman, which is 60 miles south of the Tri-Cities.
Since then, the two Oregon agencies have been working with Cody Easterday on the individual permit.
There has been opposition to the application, with a coalition calling for the state to deny the Easterday permit and pushing the Oregon Legislature to enact a moratorium on the creation of new mega-dairies and the expansion of existing operations.
Stand Up to Factory Farms wants policies instituted to “meaningfully protect our air, water and climate, and ensure the humane treatment of animals and the economic vitality of family farmers.”
The coalition includes community, environmental, farm and social justice organizations at the local, state and national level.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture “is right to require Cody Easterday to withdraw the permit application for a new mega-dairy in eastern Oregon, particularly in light of the federal charges brought against him and the uncertainty regarding the future of the Easterday family’s enterprises,” coalition organizer, Kristina Beggen, said in a news release after the state made its announcement.
“The fact that ODA continued to consider this permit after the Easterday scandal broke, despite clear authority to deny the application, is outrageous. But returning the application is not enough,” Beggen continued.
“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. Governor Brown must prevent this to prove herself a climate champion. She must deny the permit for this mega-dairy outright, no matter who the applicant is.”
The coalition renewed its request involving the Easterday operation in February after allegations surfaced in a lawsuit that Cody Easterday had bilked Tyson Foods and an unnamed company out of more than $225 million total by charging for the purchase and feeding of 200,000 cattle that never existed.
Easterday came up with the scheme to offset the money he lost in the commodities trading markets, federal investigators said.
At the same time, Easterday Ranches and Easterday Farms separately filed in federal court for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Cody Easterday, now 50, went on to plead guilty in U.S. District Court in a case that federal prosecutors are calling a “ghost-cattle scam.”
The Mesa man faces up to 20 years in prison, and agreed to repay $244 million in restitution.
Stand Up Factory Farms, in calling for the application to be denied, questioned how Easterday Farms Dairy would have the ability to meet the permit’s financial requirements with the parent companies embroiled in multiple legal matters.
The coalition has said an estimated $15 million is required to bring the former Lost Valley site into environmental compliance.