AFO/CAFO Information


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    AFO/CAFO Information


    Agricultural producers, especially those with Animal Feeding Operations (AFO’s) and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) need information, training, and assistance in identifying possible pollution sources and implementing practices to protect Utah's Water.

    Nearly 40% of the nation's waterways that have been assessed do not meet quality criteria for culinary or recreational use.  In response to this, the Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) and The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) completed a National Strategy for animal feeding operations in 1999, which addresses water quality.  The EPA included a provision that allows individual states to develop their own plan for implementing the Strategy.  The EPA/USDA Utah Strategy helps producers determine their status, and helps potential CAFOs (defined below) develop Nutrient Management Plans (NMP’s) which help implement practices to eliminate polluted runoff. NMPs are required for CAFOs and are recommended for smaller AFOs.

    On December 22, 2008, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implemented a federal rule for Concentrated Animal feeding Operations (CAFOs). This rule outlines how Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) and CAFOs are regulated by CPA and authorized states across the country.

    The new rule requires a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for CAFOs (also called a CAFO permit) that "discharge" or "propose to discharge." AFOs and large CAFOs that do not discharge, or propose to discharge, are not required by law to obtain a permit.


    covered cows

     Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) are agricultural operations where animals are raised and maintained in confined situations for a total of 45 days or more (does not have to be consecutive days) in any 12-month period (does not have to be a calendar year) AND crops, vegetation, or any post-harvest residues are not sustained in the normal growing season over any portion of the lot or facility. Partial daily confinement counts as a whole day. Also, animals do not have to be the same animals confined for 45 days. For example, some auctions may qualify as AFOs. A Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) is recommended for AFOs.


    Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are no longer defined by the "number of animal units" but by the actual number of animals at the operation. In order to be considered a CAFO a facility must first be defined as a AFO. Find out how regulations define small, medium, and large CAFOs. If you have a CAFO you need to develop a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP).

     Turkey Farm


    NO IF...

    • Your facility does not *discharge water to the State
    • Your AFO or CAFO will not discharge (regardless of cause or storm event size)

    Although many Medium and Small AFOs may NOT require a CAFO permit, consider Utah's AFO Permit-by-Rule for some enforcement protection 

    See also: Does My Facility Require an AFO or CAFO permit? (flow chart)

    YES IF...

    • You  have a small AFO that is designated as a significant polluter based on an on-site inspection that *discharges through a man-made devise or direct animal contact
    • You have a small or medium AFOs that discharges through direct animal contact or a man-made device (e.g., pipe, ditch, etc.) to a water of the State
    • You have a large CAFOs that discharge or proposes to discharge to a water of the State
    *discharge is defined by the Clean Water Act as the addition of any pollutant (including animal manure or contaminated waters) to navigable waters. Navigable waters are broadly defined as any surface water source, whether in man-made ditches or natural streams, that leave an operator's property.

    In Utah there are two permit options available, a CAFO permit or an AFO Permit-By-Rule.

    For ways to voluntarily reduce pollution and possibly avoid being designated as a CAFO check out this Checklist of Best Management Practices.



    The USDA and the EPA issued the Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations to protect and minimize the effects of agriculture on water quality and public health while maintaining long term sustainable agriculture. By understanding and executing the National Strategy, a healthy relationship between water quality and agriculture can be established.


    water by cowsIn 2001 the AFO/CAFO Committee developed a strategy to help animal feeding operations comply with environmental regulations to improve water quality in Utah. As of December 31, 2008, almost 3,000 facilities were assessed and of those 393 were AFOs with compliance problems. Since 2001, 98% of those with compliance problems have been reported to have had management plans prepared and 92% of those AFOs are in full compliance. The Utah Strategy expired in December of 2008. The Utah Division of Water Quality (DWQ) is currently drafting a new strategy. DWQ entered into a contract with the Utah Farm Bureau and the Utah Association of Conservation Districts to provide funding and continue assistance with compliance. Utah State University Extension also partnered with DWQ to provide outreach and education to AFOs and CAFOs in the state to implement the new strategy.


    • Voluntary inventory and self-assessment program - Nutrient Management Planning
    • Voluntary CNMP development encouraged - no UPDES permit is required if voluntary action is taken
    • Technical assistance provided

    Comprehensive nutrient management plans are required for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), and are recommended for smaller Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs).

    Utah's AFO/CAFO Strategy Phase II (2008)

    Animal Feeding Operations....A Utah Strategy