Winter 2008

USEPA Final Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation Rule Published

PRINT VERSION (pdf) Download the Winter 2008 issue of Iowa Manure Matters - Odor and Nutrient Management Newsletter in pdf format.

By Joe Lally, Department of Economics, Iowa State University

The USEPA filed the final Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Rule in the Federal Register on Nov. 20, 2008. The anticipated effective date of the rule will be Dec. 20, 2008.

The Heartland Regional Water Quality Project has consistently worked to provide educational materials, workshop events, conference calls, and newsletters highlighting the CAFO Rule as it was published in 2003.  This coordinated effort involves the regulatory agencies, land grant universities, and NRCS in the states of Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri, which are the four states in EPA’s Region 7.  The Heartland Regional Water Quality Project working group followed the public hearings and litigation, and responded to the 2006 request for comments.  The livestock industry in EPA Region 7 has experienced state regulations that, for the most part, have been in place for several years and this final CAFO Rule does not demand any major changes in management.

Over the course of the last two weeks, we have participated in several outreach activities provided by EPA, including a review of the CAFO Rule as published in the Federal Register.  Keep in mind that the final CAFO Rule is a revision to the 2003 Rule that was mandated by the Waterkeepers Decision of the second circuit court. The key highlights of the final CAFO Rule are discussed below.

Revised the ‘Duty to Apply”
The 2003 CAFO Rule indicated that all CAFOs had a “Duty to Apply” for an National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit.  That feature was revised in the latest CAFO Rule to now read “a CAFO that does or will discharge” on a site specific, case by case basis will need to apply for an NPDES Permit.  Each CAFO will be responsible for determining its discharge risk by completing an objective site assessment of the CAFO’s facility design, operation, and maintenance.  In the event that a CAFO has had a previous discharge (without a NPDES Permit), and permanently fixed the cause of the discharge, the CAFO is not required to file for an NPDES Permit if the current design achieves the “no discharge” status.

Introduces a new ‘Certification” option
The final CAFO Rule provides for a new category of regulatory control referred to as “Certification”.  This is a voluntary certification on the part of the CAFO to self certify that no discharge will occur.  Confinement farms are the most likely CAFOs to pursue this option.  Additional certification details will be available by spring, and it will be up to the individual states to initiate this option under a timeline of their choosing.

Additional Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) requirements
Additional NMP requirements further detail the framework of an acceptable NMP.  Two options were identified, the “linear” approach, and the “narrative” approach.  The narrative model was promoted by the Heartland NMP Working Group.  The terms of the NMP will be required to become part of the NPDES Permit (if they’re not already required), and will be defined by the states.  The key here is to identify the methods and protocols used to determine the manure application rates.  This concept follows the strategic and annual plan concepts already in place in some Region 7 states.

Some additional details that may impact livestock farms on a case by case basis involve setbacks, land application rates that are determined by landform features, and the use,or lack of use of conservation practices, tillage practices, rotation, etc. 

Alternative New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) provisions for swine, poultry, and veal facilities
There were no changes in the NSPS provisions laid out in the 2003 CAFO Rule.  This section of the CAFO Rule details the inclusion of certain swine, poultry, and veal calf facilities not previously included in CAFO Permit requirements. It outlines the fact that “no discharge” is allowed from the production area, and that precipitation-based overflows are not exempt.

Best Conventional Technologies (BCT)
The final Rule reaffirmed no changes in previously published rules regarding production area discharges, precipitation-based overflows, land application rates to minimize nutrient losses from manure application fields, and required setbacks, along with vegetated buffers.

This final Rule from EPA will require additional rule-making and legislative code adjustments in part, for the states in Region 7. Each of the Region 7 states will look to the state regulatory agency as the permitting authority to write the details to this final CAFO Rule.
 Most of the farms with livestock that will be impacted by this rule are already doing what will likely be required. All existing NPDES permitted farms already were required to have filed an NMP by Dec.31, 2006.  “Newly defined” farms now coming under CAFO regulations, have until  Feb.27, 2009 to apply for NPDES Permits. A NMP will need to be filed with the NPDES Permit application.  For all new facilities falling under the NPDES Permit rules, applications and NMP’s will be filed and public noticed at the same time as the construction application itself. Please note: the deadline for CAFOs in Iowa that meet NPDES requirements for combined operations (confined and open lot) have until Dec. 31, 2008 to apply for their NPDES Permit.  See article “Dec. 31 Deadline for Large Combined Indoor/Outdoor Livestock Operations” for more details.

Additional information regarding the CAFO Rule can be found at:

For an example “narrative model NMP” please see:


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