Environmental Protection Agency established
Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) are agricultural operations where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. An AFO is a lot or facility (other than an aquatic animal production facility) where the following conditions are met:
- animals have been, are, or will be stabled or confined and fed or maintained for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period, and
- crops, vegetation, forage growth, or post-harvest residues are not sustained in the normal growing season over any portion of the lot or facility.
AFOs that meet the regulatory definition of a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) are regulated under the NPDES permitting program. The NPDES program regulates the discharge of pollutants from point sources to waters of the U.S. CAFOs are point sources, as defined by the CWA [Section 502(14)] (PDF). To be considered a CAFO, a facility must first be defined as an AFO, and meet the criteria established in the CAFO regulation.
AFOs and Environmental Considerations
Manure and wastewater from AFOs have the potential to contribute pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus, organic matter, sediments, pathogens, hormones, and antibiotics to the environment.
For more detailed information on environmental considerations associated with animal agriculture, see:
NPDES Permitting of CAFOs
Most states are authorized to issue NPDES permits. The operator of a CAFO in an authorized state should request coverage from the appropriate state agency and utilize the appropriate state forms. See State CAFO Contacts
EPA is the permitting authority in Idaho, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, the District of Columbia, tribal lands, and U.S. territories. CAFO operators in these juristdictions should contact the appropriate EPA contact and use the following EPA forms to request permit coverage. See EPA CAFO Contacts
Annual NPDES CAFO Program Status Reports
EPA compiles annual summaries on the implementation status of the NPDES CAFO regulations. Reports include, for each state: total number of CAFOs, number and percentage of CAFOs with NPDES permits, and other information associated with implementation of the 2008 CAFO rule.
Animal Agriculture Industry Partnerships
EPA is collaborating with the animal agriculture industry to enhance water quality protection through voluntary partnerships. There are currently four parts to this program as described below:
Open Dialogue: EPA has established an Animal Agriculture Discussion Group (AADG) to develop a shared understanding of how to implement the Clean Water Act. AADG seeks to keep lines of communication open and improve two-way understandings of viewpoints. AADG is an informal and iterative group of animal agriculture stakeholders including representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), all sectors of the animal feeding industry and their associations, academia, and states. The group convenes via conference calls and face-to-face meetings twice per year.
Partnerships: EPA’s collaborative efforts seek to improve relationships between EPA and industry by conducting joint projects for water quality protection. Some of the more noteworthy partnership projects include the following:
- A two-page outreach piece, Beneficial Uses of Manure and Environmental Protection developed with agriculture industry organizations;
- Supported the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association in producing a video series released in January 2016 for poultry producers on environmental management, as part of EPA’s education, outreach, and training efforts. Videos are available on US Poultry's YouTube webpage; and
- Continuing EPA participation in individual sector environmental stewardship awards including U.S. Poultry and Egg’s Family Farm Awards, and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s Sustainability Awards.
Practices and Technologies: National challenges provide exciting platforms to find solutions by tapping into the ingenuity and creativity of the private sector. EPA is harnessing the power of competitive challenges to encourage the development and adoption of manure nutrient recovery technologies (MNRTs). These technologies can extract or transform the nutrients in manure and sequester them into products that could be used onsite, transferred, or sold to where they are needed. The nutrient recycling challenge launched November 2015.
Better Information and Training: EPA is working with the AADG to develop an educational program that will facilitate two-way understandings of livestock and poultry feeding operations and water quality protection measures. The training will cover the basic major elements of agriculture production systems - what they look like, how they operate - relative to manure management to protect water quality.
Nutrient Recycling Challenge
EPA has partnered with pork and dairy producers, USDA, and environmental and scientific experts to launch the Nutrient Recycling Challenge—a competition to develop affordable technologies that recycle nutrients from livestock manure. Every year, livestock producers manage over one billion tons of manure, which contains valuable nutrients—nitrogen and phosphorus—that plants need to grow. Challenge entrants will develop technologies that extract nutrients from manure to generate products with environmental and economic benefits that farmers can use or sell.
The competition has four phases in which innovators can turn their concepts into designs, and eventually, into working technologies to be piloted on livestock farms. Phase I, which began November 16, 2015 and ended January 15, 2016, called for papers outlining ideas for these technologies.
Update: EPA received 75 concept papers from around the world, and selected 34 submissions to continue on to Phase II of the challenge. EPA is awarding a total of $30, 000 in cash prizes to the top ten submissions (four "Winners" and six "Honorable Mentions"). An awards ceremony will be part of the Nutrient Recycling Challenge DC Summit, which is being held in Washington, DC on March 30-31, 2016.