In 2017, Lost Valley Farm opened the second-largest dairy in Boardman, Oregon with big ambitions. It was supposed to have 30,000 cows, but instead it was a disaster with more than 200 wastewater violations and bankruptcy in less than a year.
Then in February 2019, Cody Easterday bought the farm for $66.7 million. Easterday is a fourth generation farmer who heads Easterday Farms, an operation out of Washington state. He was confident that better management and some investment to finish the incomplete wastewater treatment system would do the trick for the farm that would be smaller with a mix of beef production cows and dairy cattle.
Well, things in Oregon haven't gone according to plan and it looks like Easterday might be ready to bail.
The farm has continued to be cited for an inability to bring nitrate levels in the water under control, and they don't even have cattle yet.
Easterday recently filed a multimillion lawsuit against the farm's former owners, claiming breach of contract and blaming them for the failed cleanup. Easterday wants some $14.5 million from Fall Line Capital and Canyon farm, who bought the mega dairy after Lost Valley went into bankruptcy. Or, Easterday just wants out of the purchase agreement.
Now, if Cody Easterday sounds familiar, it's because he's the man behind the $244 million "ghost cattle" scam to defraud Tyson Foods. His farm in Washington charged Tyson and another company to purchase and feed 200,000 cattle that didn't exist. So, he is amidst a much larger bankruptcy lawsuit to the north.
According to The Tri-City Herald, Easterday's son is now trying to restart operations in Oregon, but agriculture officials have denied the permits until the nitrates come down within safe levels.
At least it looks like the Easterdays has been trying to get the nitrates in check. After repeated failures, they finally got things compliant by December 2021, but then the Department of Agriculture wanted nine straight months of acceptable water samples. The lawsuit blames the previous owners as well as the farm next door on the nitrate problem. Even if Easterday gets out of the farm, or his son can take it over, the nitrate problem needs to be addressed because the aquifer is at a high risk for contamination.