Easterday Family Abandons Boardman Mega-Dairy Plan

Records show the dairy site has been sold back to its original owners, ending plans to resurrect the controversial operation.

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A controversial plan to open a 28,000-cow mega-dairy in Boardman has been abandoned, according to records filed in Morrow County. Easterday Dairy sold the proposed mega-dairy site back to its original owners for $15.2 million last week, according to reporting by the Tri-City Herald.

The news follows Gov. Tina Kotek’s signing of SB 85, which places new regulations on confined animal feeding operations, into law.  

The proposed mega-dairy has been mired in controversy since it was first proposed. The Easterday family – a Washington-based ranching dynasty – purchased the site of the Lost Valley mega dairy in Boardman for $16 million, after the company filed for bankruptcy in 2019. Lost Valley racked up more than 200 violations in its year of operations before being sold to California-based Canyon Farms, which sold the site to Easterday Dairy the same year. 

In April the Oregon Department of Agriculture handed down 60 infractions to Easterday Dairy in a notice of noncompliance for land use, water quality and environmental violations at the Boardman site.

The mega-dairy proposal also came under scrutiny from multiple animal rights and environmental advocacy groups, who lobbied for the legislature to put a moratorium on large-scale industrial agriculture operations in the state, in part to stop the Boardman mega dairy operation.

Lauren Goldberg, Executive Director of Columbia Riverkeeper, says that it’s not certain that SB 85 was the “I think there was a lot of weight on this project to fail, so it’s hard to say SB 85 was the project’s death knell.” Goldberg tells Oregon Business, and adds that this project’s demies doesn’t end the threat the Lost Valley site poses to the environment. “This factory should stand as a warning sign. There’s a lot of scrutiny about the Environmental impacts of projects here. But to every legislator who decided against the moratorium, I would say that factory is still there, and someone else could still use it.” 

Easterday Dairy is currently run by Cole, Clay and Cutter Easterday, the sons of Easterday Ranches president Cody Easterday.

The elder Easterday is serving an 11-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in a “ghost herd” scheme, which prosecutors called a ““a massive, brazen and long-term fraud.” Easterday Ranches had an agreement with Tyson Foods to buy cattle and raise them to the proper weight for slaughter, and invoiced Tyson and other investors $244 million for raising 265,000 cattle. But those cattle only existed on paper.

“The final termination of this foolish proposal is a major win for Oregon’s communities, water and climate. But this eventuality should have come far sooner,” Tarah Heinzen legal director of Washington D.C.-based Food & Water Watch said in a statement following the news. “Oregon agencies should have denied the permit outright. This years-long fiasco shows that Oregon’s environmental regulations are far too lax; we will fight harder to enact a moratorium on these polluting operations.” 

Nitrate water contamination at the Boardman site prompted Food & Water Watch and its allies to petition the Environmental Protection Agency to take emergency action to address the drinking water crisis in 2020. The petition is still pending.