EPA Regulations for CAFO�s Will Not Just Go Away

Dr. Ronald L. Boman
USU Extension Dairy Specialist

The EPA�s final rule regulating �Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations� (CAFO�s) became effective April 14, 2003. This final rule revises and clarifies EPA�s regulatory requirements for CAFO�s. The final rule establishes a mandatory duty for all CAFO�s to apply for a �National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System� (NPDES) permit from the State in which the dairy farm is located and to develop and implement a �Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan� (CNMP). The rule gives flexibility to individual states to develop site specific nutrient management plans and NPDES permits to ensure that animal manure is managed consistent with proper agricultural practices that protect water quality. The final rule now allows manure to be applied to frozen ground according to the precautions outlined in each individual nutrient management plan that is part of the NPDES permit. Effluent from manure still CAN NOT LEAVE the producer�s crop land, and the CNMP will spell out the specific conditions under which manure can be applied to frozen ground. In fact, manure is to be applied at agronomic rates regardless of the time of the year and in such a manner that eliminates the possibility of manure getting into surface waters. In Utah the NRCS and Extension personnel have put together the �Utah Manure Application Risk Index� manual with a spread sheet that helps dairy producers determine how much and when manure can be applied to fields. I suspect that other states have or will have such programs. I really encourage dairy producers to work closely with the NRCS in their local areas. They are not a regulatory agency, and they have the expertise to assist dairy producers develop CNMP�s and design appropriate lagoons and holding facilities. They also can help producers access cost share money for construction of waste handling facilities. As mentioned earlier, each state government (with a few exceptions) has the responsibility to issue NPDES permits specific for the individual dairy farm�s conditions. A CAFO is responsible for manure applied on land that it owns and operates. There is a provision for CAFO�s to transfer effluent and manure to other farms. A record must be kept of the nutrient content of the manure and/or effluent and how much was transferred and to whom it was transferred. In the event that a large CAFO has no potential to discharge, the final rule provides a process for the CAFO to make such a demonstration in lieu of obtaining a permit. It would be the CAFO�s responsibility to provide appropriate supporting information that the permitting authority can use when reviewing the demonstration.

The final rule defines dairies that have 700 or more mature cows as CAFO�s and they must have a NPDES permit and a CNMP. Dairy heifers owned by and raised on the CAFO are not counted when determining the size of a CAFO. However, these heifers and their manure must be accounted for in the nutrient management plan. The NPDES permit and the nutrient management plan specify management practices that will keep manure and effluent from getting into the surface waters of the state and nation. Large CAFO facilities must now be designed, constructed and operated to contain all process wastewaters and runoff from a 25-year, 24-hour rainfall event. Medium sized dairies with 200 to 699 mature cows are not CAFO�s unless they have a discharge into canals, streams or rivers, or if they have the potential for such a discharge. Small dairies with less than 200 mature cows are not CAFO�s either unless they have a discharge or the potential for a discharge. It would seem imperative that the small and medium sized dairies (as defined by EPA) should take advantage of technical (and any financial) support that is available and eliminate the conditions that would cause them to be defined as a CAFO. Thus they can correct any discharges or potentials for a discharge now and avoid being designated as a CAFO by EPA or an NPDES authorized state agency.

The effective date for Large CAFO�s to comply with effluent guidelines at the dairy facility was June 12, 2003. By December 31, 2006, all CAFO�s must have developed and implemented nutrient management plans and must comply with effluent guidelines for the land application area. Any new dairy facility with 700 or more mature dairy cows that starts construction after April 14, 2003 must have a NPDES permit 180 days prior to commencing operation. EPA promotes the efforts of States to actively use a variety of strategies to work with owners and operators of Animal Feeding Operations (AFO�s) to ensure that they are able to avoid meeting the criteria that would result in their being defined as or designated Small or Medium CAFO�s. ©