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Oregon dairy changing hands after regulatory problems

Regulatory problems with wastewater have prompted the closure and anticipated sale of the Volbeda Farms dairy facility near Salem, Ore.
Mateusz Perkowski

Capital Press

Published on December 6, 2017 12:08PM

Darren Volbeda of the Willamette Valley Cheese Co. near Salem, Ore., examines cheeses as they brine. The adjacent dairy farm is being sold to another farmer, who will be milking Jersey cows at the facility.

Mateusz Perkowski/Capital Press

Darren Volbeda of the Willamette Valley Cheese Co. near Salem, Ore., examines cheeses as they brine. The adjacent dairy farm is being sold to another farmer, who will be milking Jersey cows at the facility.

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A dairy farm associated with a well-known Oregon cheese company is being sold off following repeated failures to follow wastewater regulations.

Volbeda Farms near Salem, Ore., violated the terms of its “confined animal feeding operation” permit numerous times over several years, prompting the Oregon Department of Agriculture to revoke the permit.

Violations included discharging waste into nearby waterways and not complying with the dairy’s animal waste plan, said Wym Matthews, manager of the agency’s CAFO program.

“This was an operational failure. It was not a facility failure, it was the failure of the operator to manage it correctly,” Matthews said.

Apart from the permit revocation, Volbeda Farms was issued a $90,000 civil penalty. ODA also obtained a temporary restraining order requiring the farm to remove its animals and clean the facility.

The agency permits about 260 dairy CAFOs in Oregon, and most of them comply with wastewater regulations, said Matthews. “This was an anomaly for our program. This is not something we see all the time.”

Capital Press was unable to reach Rod Volbeda, the farm’s owner, for comment.

The dairy farm is being bought by Brian Turley, whose family operates a grass seed and custom farming business, with the closing expected to take place in January.

Turley said he’s familiar with the dairy industry as his family raised replacement heifers in the 1990s and currently provides seed drilling and hauling services for dairy farms.

Once the dairy farm receives a new CAFO permit, Turley expects to initially keep 180 to 225 Jersey cows at the facility, roughly one-third the number it once housed at its peak.

Turley became aware of the opportunity to buy the facility after hauling away manure from the farm.

The Willamette Valley Cheese Co. will continue operating next to the site and Turley is negotiating about supplying the company with milk.

“We’d like to work out a deal with them,” he said.

Manure management problems aren’t a concern for the new owners, as they already apply dairy manure to multiple fields in the region, said Brianna Turley, Brian’s wife.

“We have a lot more acreage than they had to apply it,” she said, noting that the Turleys will also collect and dispose of wastewater from the cheese facility.



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