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Updates on the proposed Easterday Dairy near Boardman, Oregon

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) received a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) application from Cole Easterday, on Thursday, July 22. This new application comes to ODA about a week after Cole’s father, Cody Easterday withdrew his CAFO application for the same site, as requested by ODA.

The new CAFO application is similar to the previous application proposing to operate a large dairy of about 28,000 animals. Cole Easterday acquired controlling interest of the dairy site near Boardman, Oregon in March 2021, after his father, Cody, resigned as an officer of the Easterday family businesses, two of which declared bankruptcy, and pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges.

Cody Easterday and Canyon Farms II, LLC bought the dairy, formerly known as Lost Valley Farm in 2019 after the previous owner-operator was repeatedly fined for CAFO violations and eventually declared bankruptcy. As part of the purchase agreement Cody Easterday agreed to clean up the facility under ODA supervision maintaining a no-animal CAFO clean-up permit. Cody Easterday grew potatoes and other vegetables on the site as he awaited the outcome of the CAFO permit application for a large dairy.

ODA recently notified Cole Easterday and Cody Easterday that a transfer application will be needed to transfer the no-animal CAFO clean-up permit to the new owner, operator, Cole Easterday. A new CAFO permit that undergoes the public notice and participation period is needed before any animals can be housed in the dairy facility. As an ongoing condition of the no-animal, CAFO clean up permit, the owner-operator is responsible for testing the soil from all fields that are part of the animal waste management plan for the operation.

All CAFOs registered to a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit are required to produce and submit an annual report that describes all the nutrient management activities they completed for the previous year. This is also an ongoing condition of the no-animal CAFO cleanup permit. Therefore, the owner-operator is responsible for testing the soil from all fields that are part of the animal waste management plan for the operation. The 2020 annual report from the Easterday property showed soil nitrate levels that could pose a risk of nitrate moving into groundwater. As a result, a water quality advisory was issued. An advisory is issued when there is a risk of violating permit conditions and is a proactive notification to alert the owner-operator that steps must be taken to prevent violations. This is the first advisory issued since the purchase in 2019.

In addition to monitoring soil nitrate levels, the owner-operator is also responsible to monitor 11 groundwater wells every quarter as a condition of the clean-up permit. Monitoring results for one of the wells exceeded the allowed concentration limit of nitrates during the most recent testing, and the levels were confirmed by a follow-up test which is standard procedure. ODA is advising the operator on how to reduce nitrate levels. ODA will now require monthly monitoring well tests, monthly sampling of tile drains adjacent to the monitoring well and reduced applications of nitrogen fertilizer and irrigation water on crop circles closest to the affected monitoring well.