Welcome to the web home of the MDE Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) Program. This is where you will find all of the information necessary to understand Maryland regulations for AFOs and if you are affected, how to comply with these regulations. If, after reading this webpage you have any questions, please call Gary Kelman at 410-537-4423 or send an e-mail to Gary.Kelman@maryland.gov.
Maryland’s regulations for Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) became effective January 12, 2009. The Maryland General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations, applicable to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and Maryland Animal Feeding Operations (MAFOs), became effective December 1, 2009. CAFOs were required by the regulations to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) to comply with the permit by February 27, 2009. MAFOs were required to submit an NOI and other documents by March 1, 2010. Any CAFOs or MAFOs that have not yet done so must submit a NOI and other required documents as soon as possible.
Together, the regulations and General Discharge Permit are designed to control nutrients from Maryland’s largest agricultural animal operations and are a significant step forward in protecting the Chesapeake Bay, local waterways, and our drinking water. The AFO regulations and General Discharge Permit are just one part of a comprehensive, statewide effort to address all sources of pollution that are impairing our waterways: wastewater treatment plants, industrial discharges, septic systems, urban/suburban stormwater runoff, and air emissions from power plants, vehicles, and trucks.
III. What is an AFO? CAFO? MAFO?
An "Animal Feeding Operation (AFO)" means a feedlot or facility where:
- Non-aquatic animals are confined, fed, and maintained for at least 45 days 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.
Use the AFO size chart to determine if your animal feeding operation is small, medium, or large.
A CAFO is a medium or large AFO that discharges or "proposes to discharge" manure, litter, or process wastewater. "Proposes to discharge" means that your facility is designed, constructed, operated, or maintained, such that a discharge to surface waters of the State WILL occur.
Large AFOs do not have to have a man-made ditch, flushing system, or other similar man-made device (such as a swale or pipe) to carry stormwater runoff containing manure, litter, or process wastewater from the production areas to surface waters of the State to be a CAFO. This is because EPA CAFO REGULATIONS define a large CAFO as a point source.
Medium AFOs are considered CAFOs if they have a man-made ditch, flushing system, or other similar man-made device (such as a swale or pipe) to carry stormwater runoff containing manure, litter, or process wastewater from the production areas to surface waters of the State.
Large or medium CAFOs, as defined above, are required to apply for the General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations. A small AFO is not a CAFO unless MDE or the EPA specifically designates the operation as a CAFO. Reasons for this designation include the operation's potential for one or more pollutants in the discharge to contribute to stream impairment. If designated by MDE or the EPA as a CAFO, that small operation would also be required to apply for the General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations.
A MAFO is a large animal feeding operation that does not discharge or “propose to discharge” manure, litter, or process wastewater. If your operation is a medium or small AFO that does not discharge or “propose to discharge,” you are probably not a MAFO unless MDE designates you as one. Reasons for designating a MAFO include the type or location of animal waste storage or animal access to surface water is likely to cause a discharge of pollutants to ground or surface waters of the State. Contact MDE if you have any questions.
All existing medium AFO poultry operations that are not Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or Maryland Animal Feeding Operations (MAFOs) and have a total house capacity of 75,001 to 99,999 square feet were required to submit to the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) a signed Certification of Conformance (COC) by December 1, 2012. Those that did not meet that date were automatically designated as MAFOs and are required to submit a MAFO NOI as soon as possible. If you do not submit the NOI, you are subject to enforcement and penalty for operating without a State Discharge Permit.
See more information under COC Requirements in Section XI E.
IV. CAFO/MAFO Tools
Access the CAFO/MAFO Calculator
AFO NOI & Public Information Search
CAFO/MAFO Calculator: To make the CAFO/MAFO determination easier, MDE has developed a CAFO/MAFO Calculator to determine if you may be a CAFO or a MAFO. Click here to use the calculator. If you are still not sure, call Gary Kelman at the number listed at the top of this page.
CAFO/MAFO Public Information Search: Use this tool to find information about the CAFOs or MAFOs who have applied for coverage under the General Discharge Permit including public notice dates to submit written comments or request public hearings on operations prior to their registration under the General Discharge Permit. Click here to use the search tool.
V. Documents Needed to Apply for Coverage
Once you have determined that you are a CAFO or a MAFO, you must submit to MDE a NOI (Notice of Intent) Form. If you are a CAFO, you must also submit a comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) that is developed in accordance with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) technical standards. If you do not have a CNMP, until you can obtain one, you must sign a General Compliance Schedule, fill out a CNMP Status Form and Supplementary Information Form, and submit it to MDE with your NOI. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOU GET YOUR CNMP TO SEND IN YOUR NOI, GENERAL COMPLIANCE SCHEDULE, AND CNMP STATUS FORM. To apply for assistance in obtaining a CNMP, contact your local NRCS office.
If you are a MAFO, you must submit to MDE a nutrient management plan (NMP) that is developed in accordance with the Maryland Department of Agriculture technical standards and your soil conservation and water quality plan (conservation plan) with the NOI. If your MAFO has a CNMP, submit that to MDE with your NOI instead of the MDA NMP and conservation plan. Again, DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOU GET YOUR CNMP OR CONSERVATION PLAN TO SEND IN YOUR NOI.
In order to obtain coverage under the General Discharge Permit, if you are a corporation, you must be registered and in good standing with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT). The business or entity’s information provided in the NOI must match the information in the SDAT register. Please contact Mr. Gary Kelman, Head, AFO Section at (410) 537-4423, if you want to apply as an individual or self proprietorship.
NOI (Notice of Intent) Form
CNMP STATUS FORM
NOTE: The permit fee and annual fee for coverage under the AFO General Discharge Permit have been waived until further notice.
VI. Public Notices
All applications for CAFO or MAFO permits are subject to public notification requirements. Pursuant to COMAR 26.08.04.09N(3)(c), “publication of public notices or public notification required by this regulation may be accomplished by posting on MDE’s web site at www.mde.state.md.us." The search initiated on this page will serve as notification to the public of the status of animal feeding operations (AFOs) which have applied for coverage under the General Discharge Permit for AFOs (General Discharge Permit), State Discharge Permit No. 09AF and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Discharge Permit No. MDG01. This permit became effective on December 1, 2009.
If you would like to search for the status of farms that applied for coverage under the AFO General Discharge Permit, click here.
VII. Public Process for CAFOs and MAFOs:
CAFOs: A public hearing will be held upon request to review MDE’s preliminary approval of the required CNMP if a written request is received on or before twenty (20) calendar days of the publication of notice on the MDE website. The request should indicate the name, address, and daytime telephone number of the person making the request, the name of any party whom the person making the request may represent, and the name of the operation. Interested parties may also submit written comments whether or not a hearing is requested. Any written comments concerning the preliminary approval must be received by the close of business, thirty (30) calendar days after the publication of notice on MDE's website. Requests for a public hearing or written comments should be sent to: Mr. Horacio Tablada, Director, Land Management Administration, 1800 Washington Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21230-1719. Upon prior request, MDE will provide an interpreter for the deaf or hearing-impaired persons.
MAFOs: MAFOs are not subject to the opportunity for a public hearing. However, interested parties may submit written comments. Any written comments concerning the preliminary approval must be received by the close of business, thirty (30) calendar days after the publication of the notice on the MDE website. Written comments should be sent to: Mr. Horacio Tablada, Director, Land Management Administration, 1800 Washington Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21230-1719.
CAFOs and MAFOs: The NOI and required plan(s) will be available for review at the location indicated in the search on the MDE website as “Plan Review Location”, and at MDE by appointment. For further information regarding this notice, to schedule an appointment to review the NOI or the required plan(s), or to request an interpreter, please contact Mr. Gary Kelman, Head, AFO Section at (410) 537-4423.
VIII. Financial Assistance
Funding for best management practices (BMPs) to address resource management issues and to help farmers meet the new CAFO/MAFO requirements is available through both State and federal funding sources. State funding is available through the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost Share Program (MACS) funded primarily by State water quality bonds. MACS funds targeting animal waste management Best Management Practices (BMPs) have also been provided from the Chesapeake 2010 Trust Fund recently. Farm Bill funding authorizations include creation of a Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI) which has recently doubled available USDA funding and funding increases are authorized. Local Soil Conservation Districts can provide the most current information about fund availability and assist with the required applications and related paperwork.
To start the process, contact your soil conservation district and they will guide you to the appropriate funding source. Their website is: http://www.mda.state.md.us/resource_conservation/technical_assistance/index.php
IX. Documents Answering Basic Questions
MDE has developed a list of frequently asked questions, a checklist describing the entire procedure, a diagram where you can determine whether you need a permit for your AFO, and a list of due dates.
X. Other Documents of Interest/Guidance
USDA_Natural Resource Conservation Service Contact List
MDE and MDA AFO Letter
New Source CAFO Design Criteria
Optional Recordkeeping Forms for CAFOs and MAFOs: MDE has developed forms for the use by AFOs subject to the General Discharge Permit to document the information required to be tracked by the Permit. If you already have a system in place to track this information, continue to use it. The use of these forms is not required.
EPA's "Implementation Guidance on CAFO Regulations - CAFOs That Discharge or Are Proposing to Discharge"
Form requesting withdrawal of NOI due to sale, change in operator, or going out of business
Form requesting transfer of registration to new owner/operator or new operator for operations that have been registered as a CAFO or MAFO
XI. Other AFO News and Information
A. Maryland Court of Appeals Uphold CAFO/MAFO Permit
Maryland's General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations (General Discharge Permit) has been upheld as a valid general permit by the Maryland courts. This removes uncertainty for animal feeding operations (AFOs) that the General Discharge Permit is legally sufficient. All AFOs that meet the requirements for needing coverage under the General Discharge Permit should submit an NOI and the required plans, if they have not already done so. See Section XIII for more information on the history of the General Discharge Permit.
B. CAFO/MAFO Annual Reports were Due March 1, 2013
All concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that are registered under the "General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations" or have entered into the "General Compliance Schedule for Applicants for CAFO Coverage" or the "General Compliance Schedule for Applicants for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Coverage with Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs) Pending Review and Public Comment" were required to submit their CAFO/MAFO Annual Implementation Reports (AIR Form) by March 1, 2013 covering calendar year 2012.
For the second year, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) have consolidated their respective annual reports for AFOs into a single report. This consolidation will make the AIR Form submittal less confusing to farmers which grow livestock and poultry. Applicable livestock and poultry farmers will receive one consolidated AIR Form from MDA. Once completed, this AIR Form should be mailed back to MDA. MDA will, in turn, forward the AFO AIR Forms to MDE.
If your operation is required to submit an AFO annual report and you have not received the four-page AFO AIR Form, please contact Debbie of MDA at 410-841-5959. Registered Maryland Animal Feeding Operations (MAFOs) are required to submit the two-page MDA AIR Form to MDA.
These forms and instructions are available on the MDA website, www.mda.state.md.us. Follow the "Nutrient Management" link.
C. MDE Provides Catastrophic Poultry Mortality Guidance
MDE has developed new guidance on "Working with MDE during Catastrophic Poultry Mortalities". This document provides a summary of the regulations and practices to be used in cases where a large number of chickens have died due to excessive heat, fires, or disease. Mortalities must be composted in facilities designed for that purpose. If these cannot accommodate a catastrophic mortality, MDE must be notified and give permission to compost in other areas, such as in poultry houses or manure sheds.
D. MDE Adds New Approved Alternatives to the 100-foot Setback Standards for CAFOs and MAFOs
MDE has established new "approved alternatives" to the 100-foot setback standards required of CAFOs and MAFOs. As required under Maryland's CAFO/MAFO regulations and permit, MDE consulted with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and the University of Maryland Extension in their deliberations in establishing these approved alternatives. The alternatives will give CAFOs and MAFOs additional practices to use during the development of a farm's comprehensive nutrient management plan or nutrient management plan for application of manure. The document "Maryland Setback Standards and Approved Alternatives Consistent with CAFO/MAFO Requirements" is available by clicking on this link.
E. Certification of Conformance (COC) Requirements and Procedures
COMAR 26.08.03.09F states:
- “A chicken (other that laying hens) AFO with dry manure and a total house size capacity of 75,000 square feet or greater that is not otherwise categorized as a CAFO or MAFO, shall submit to the Department a certification of conformance within the time period specified in the general permit for AFOs issued under COMAR 26.08.04.09N.
- The Department may designate a facility a MAFO before or after the submittal of a certification of conformance if the Department determines that the facility is a MAFO under this regulation.
- Failure to submit the required certification shall result in the automatic designation of the facility as a MAFO, and the facility shall be subject to enforcement and penalty for operating without a State discharge permit from the effective date of this regulation or the date the facility began operating, whichever occurs later…”
Poultry AFOs that were not previously eligible for submission of a COC, but have RECENTLY increased the number of chickens to between 37,500 and 124,999 or increased their house capacity to at least 75,001 to 99,999 square feet OR NEWLY CONSTRUCTED A COC OPERATION must submit the COC to MDE as soon as possible or will be subject to enforcement and penalty for operating without a State Discharge Permit.
What to do IF YOUR OPERATION HAS RECENTLY BEEN UPGRADED to fall under the COC requirement or your NEWLY CONSTRUCTED OPERATION falls under the COC requirement:
If you fall under this requirement, please perform the following:
1. Poultry operations falling under the COC requirement that have already submitted a MAFO Notice of Intent (NOI) and required plans must complete and return to MDE an AFO Status Form as soon as possible in accordance with the following:
- If your RECENTLY UPGRADED OR NEWLY CONSTRUCTED medium AFO has a total house capacity between 75,001 and 99,999 square feet and does not discharge or propose to discharge pollutants to surface waters of the State, please check the second box in the AFO Status Form, thereby withdrawing your NOI. You must also complete and submit to MDE a signed COC form as soon as possible.
- If your medium AFO discharges or proposes to discharge pollutants to surface waters of the State, please check the third box in the AFO Status Form, indicating your intention to seek permit coverage as a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO).
2. Poultry operations falling under the COC requirement that have not previously submitted their NOIs and required plans because they are not a CAFO must:
- Submit a completed and signed COC to MDE as soon as possible.
By signing the COC you commit to:
- Having the required plans on site;
- Implementing the required plans;
- Assuring that the required plans are consistent with MAFO requirements and incorporating all buffers, setbacks, and storage requirements otherwise applicable to MAFOs, as required in the General Discharge Permit.
- Allowing the Department access to your operation to confirm your conformance; and
- Allowing access to your operation by researchers authorized by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and MDE to study the effectiveness of best management practices for manure management.
MDE may reject a COC for cause including:
- False or inaccurate information was contained in the COC;
- Conditions or specifications included in the required plans have been or are about to be violated;
- Substantial deviation from the required plans has occurred;
- The AFO has failed to permit an authorized MDE representative, upon presentation of proper credentials, to:
- Enter at any reasonable time upon the AFO’s premises where a pollutant source is located, pertinent operations are conducted, or records related to the required plans are maintained;
- Access and copy any records related to the required plans;
- Inspect facilities to ensure compliance with the conditions of the COC;
- Inspect any monitoring equipment or method required in the required plans; OR
- Sample any discharge or pollutants;
- Any State of federal water quality stream standard or effluent standard has been or is threatened to be violated; or
- Any other good cause exists for rejecting the COC.
If a COC is rejected for any of the above reasons, the medium poultry AFO must immediately submit a MAFO or CAFO NOI, as applicable, and required plans. Failure to do so may result in enforcement action by MDE for the AFO's operation without a discharge permit.
F. Click Here for information on Maryland Department of Agriculture's Pesticide Container Recycling Program (June through September 2013)
XII. HistoryThis information is presented for those who are interested in the history of the development of the regulations and the 2009 General Discharge Permit. The following documents are archival in nature and should not be viewed as current requirements.
*Note: MDE issued its final determination to issue a Maryland General Permit for AFOs on January 2, 2009; however, issuance of the General Permit was delayed by a legal challenge. On May 5, 2009, the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings issued a Proposed Decision upholding the permit against this legal challenge, and Petitioners Assateague Coastkeeper, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, C. & B. Schelts, & Waterkeeper Alliance filed exceptions to that ruling. On September 2, 2009, following further briefing and oral argument, MDE issued the Final Decision, holding that the Petitioners have not placed any material fact in dispute and that the proposed General Permit conforms to federal and State law. The issuance of this Final Decision allows MDE to issue the General Permit and to place applicable facilities under the new requirements designed to protect the waters of the State. The Petitioners filed an appeal of the Final Decision in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on October 2, 2009. In the absence of a court-issued stay of the Final Decision, MDE and MDA agreed that it was in the best interest of Maryland's waterways, facilities subject to Maryland’s AFO requirements, and all Marylanders for MDE to issue the permit, effective December 1, 2009. This allowed existing AFOs and those wishing to construct new AFOs to implement the necessary environmental controls under the clear and consistent guidelines provided by the permit.
The Assateague Coastkeepers, Waterkeeper Alliance and the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper argued that the permit was deficient because it was not as stringent as federal law. MDE argued that the permit was at least as stringent as federal law, and in fact, more stringent in that it requires MAFOs to seek permit coverage.
The Office of Administrative Hearings, the MDE Final Decision Maker, and the Circuit Court of Baltimore City all held that the General Discharge Permit was valid.
On September 6, 2011, the Court of Special Appeals (CSA) agreed with MDE and the lower decisions and held that the General Discharge Permit was at least as stringent as federal law. The CSA held that certain challenged provisions of the General Discharge Permit were based on substantial evidence considered by the Department from various sources including the EPA, University of Maryland Scientist, the Wye Research and Education Center, and scientists at the Chesapeake Research Consortium. The Court also agreed with MDE that the General Discharge Permit would not cause or contribute to violations of water quality standards because the General Discharge Permit, which regulates a previously unregulated community, will result in a net reduction in pollution.
On January 23, 2012, the Court of Appeals of Maryland denied the Petitioners request for review of the CSA ruling; thereby, making the CSA decision final.
Implications of Ruling
Maryland’s General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations has been upheld as a valid general permit by the Maryland courts. This removes uncertainty for AFOs that the General Discharge Permit is legally sufficient. All AFOs that meet the requirements for needing coverage under the General Discharge Permit should submit an NOI, if they have not already done so.