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 the AFO Division at (410) 537-3314.
Together, the regulations and General Discharge Permit (GD 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 GD 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.
The Department has published guidance to AFOs to assist them in completing their GD permit applications regarding whether they are a no-land or a land operation. No-land operations only grow animals and export their manure to another farm not under the control of the AFO owner or operator. Land operations grow both animals and crops, where the land application area where manure is applied is under the control of the AFO owner or operator, regardless of whether the manure is generated by the AFO operation or imported from another source. In making this determination, the AFO must verify whether the AFO owner or operator is in control of the land application area. The business structure of the AFO or the crop operation does not necessarily affect the no-land/land determination. This guidance can be found by clicking here.
Limited funding of the MACS program may present a problem for AFOs constructing new or expanding existing poultry houses. The Department worked with MDA and NRCS to develop requirements that will enable poultry farmers to construct new AFOs or expand existing operations, and still meet applicable federal, State, and General Discharge Permit requirements if MACS funding has run out for that year. Note that these are temporary measures and must be reflected in the AFO's required plan, along with the permanent practice included in the implementation schedule. Any temporary measures may be implemented for a period not to exceed two years at which time the permanent structures must be in place and operational. This guidance can be found by clicking here.
COMAR 26.08.04.09N(3)(c) states: "Notwithstanding Regulation .01-1E of this chapter, publication of public notices or public notification required by this regulation may be accomplished by posting on the Department's web site at mde.maryland.gov. This allows the Department to place all notices and public notification required by the AFO Program only on this webpage. There will be no publication of AFO Program notices in local newspapers. These notices will appear on this page or the public information search tool. Click here to use the search tool
Notice is hereby given that the Maryland Department of the Environment (the "Department") has received (an) application(s) for coverage under the General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations (GD Permit) from the following AFO(s):
In accordance with Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 26.08.04.09N(k), the following person(s) have requested that the Department conduct a public hearing regarding the Department's approval of the listed AFO(s)' required plan(s):
Notice is given that the Department will hold (a) public hearing(s) regarding the approval of the required plan(s) at 6:00 PM on the following date(s) and at the following location(s).
The purpose of the public hearing(s) is (are) to provide an additional opportunity for the general public to provide comments to the Department about the approval of the required plan(s). In the case of inclement weather, defined by the closure of the local county school system during the day of the hearing, the hearing will be postponed to a future date.
The Department has previously provided the NOI and required plan(s) to the public via a public notice on its website. The NOI and required plan(s) are available for public review at the Department by appointment.
Upon request, an interpreter for the deaf or hearing-impaired person will be provided.
For further information regarding this notice, to schedule an appointment to review the application(s), or request an interpreter, please contact Mr. Gary F. Kelman, Chief, Animal Feeding Operation Division, at (410) 537-3314.
Use this tool to find information about the CAFOs or MAFOs who have applied for coverage under the GD Permit including public notice dates to submit written comments or request public hearings on operations prior to their registration under the GD Permit. MDE will also place a PDF file of the NOI and required plans under the line, "NOI and Required Plan Under Public Participation" in the report from the public information search during the 30-calendar day public participation period. Click here to use the search tool.
Developing or expanding poultry AFOs involves several areas of MDE and local governments. To increase your awareness of important regulatory requirements, the AFO Division developed a list of MDE requirements during pre-construction, construction, and post-construction. This list can be found by clicking here.
The Department will register all AFOs that are currently registered under the original renewed GD Permit (14AF) under the modified GD Permit (14AFA). The following information will provide guidance to AFOs on the documents that must be submitted to the Department to initiate or continue the registration under the modified GD Permit.
1. NOT REGISTERED: If your AFO has not been registered under the current GD Permit (14AFA) and have not applied, you must submit a NOI as soon as possible.
2. REGISTERED UNDER PREVIOUS GD PERMIT (09AF), BUT NOT UNDER THE CURRENT GD PERMIT (14AFA): If your AFO was registered under the previous GD Permit (09AF), but you have not submitted a new NOI for coverage under the current GD Permit (14AFA), you must submit a NOI and required plan for approval as soon as possible.
3. MODIFICATION OF AN EXISTING OPERATION: If you are registered under the current GD Permit (14AFA) and you modify your operation such that it changes from a CAFO to a MAFO, from a medium to large CAFO, or from a no-land to a land operation, you must submit a NOI and required plan for approval that reflects the modification to your operation.
4. CHANGE OF OWNERSHIP UNDER THE CURRENT GD PERMIT: If your operation is registered under the current GD Permit (14AFA) and you sell your AFO and the new owner plans to continue operating it exactly as described in your NOI and required plans, you must submit a transfer form for approval so that the new owner is registered and can continue operating the AFO with minimal disruption. The new owner cannot legally continue operating under your registration.
5. CHANGE OF OWNERSHIP UNDER THE PREVIOUS GD PERMIT: If your operation is registered under the previous GD Permit (09AF) and you sell your AFO, the new owner must submit a NOI and required plan for approval for the current GD Permit (14AFA) prior to receiving birds to legally continue operating.
6. NEW POULTRY CONSTRUCTION: If you are planning on constructing a new poultry operation, you must submit a NOI and required plan for approval once your plans are finalized. This will allow the Department to process your submittal and for your operation to be registered which is required prior to legally receiving birds.
7. EXPANSION OF AN EXISTING POULTRY OPERATION: If you are expanding an existing poultry operation, you must submit a NOI and required plan for approval once your plans are finalized. This will allow the Department to process your expansion submittal and for your additional poultry house(s) to be registered which is required prior to legally receiving birds in the new poultry house(s). The existing poultry house(s) can operate pending the registration of the expanded operation.
All NOIs and required plans must be submitted to:
Maryland Department of the EnvironmentLand and Materials Administration1800 Washington Blvd., Suite 610Baltimore, MD 21230-1719
If you have any questions, please contact the AFO Division at (410) 537-3314.
The annual CAFO permit fees are currently waived. Please note that Maryland Animal Feeding Operations (MAFOs) do not require a fee.
Maryland’s regulations for AFOs became effective January 12, 2009. The first Maryland General Discharge Permit for AFOs (09AF, MDG01), applicable to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and Maryland Animal Feeding Operations (MAFOs), became effective December 1, 2009 and expired on November 30, 2014. This general permit was renewed effective December 1, 2014 as GD Permit 14AF, MDG01 (State, federal permit numbers), was modified (GD Permit 14AFA, MDG01A) effective August 1, 2016 and will expire on November 30, 2019.
An "Animal Feeding Operation (AFO)" means a feedlot or facility where:
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 AFOs. 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 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. MDE will send inspectors to verify whether or not the AFO qualifies as a MAFO. 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) are required to submit to the Department a signed Certification of Conformance (COC) if
New AFOs meeting the criteria for certification of conformance shall submit the certification prior to beginning operation.
See more information under COC Requirements in Section XI E.
CAFOs, MAFOs, and COCs can be a "Land" or a "No-Land" operation. As defined in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), "Land application area" means land under the control of an AFO owner or operator, whether it is owned, rented, or leased, to which manure, litter, or process wastewater from the production area is or may be applied" (40 CFR Part 122.23(b)). Therefore, any CAFO, MAFO, or COC with a land application area is a Land operation. Any CAFO, MAFO, or COC without a land application area that receives manure, litter, or process wastewater is a No-Land operation. The NOI requests the applicant to list "associated farms". The NOI states that, "Associated ... farms are those that you have control over the application of the litter, manure, or process wastewater by ownership, lease, or agreement. All of these associated ... farms must be included in the required plans." If a CAFO, MAFO, or COC lists associated farms, it is also a Land operation.
Once you have determined that you are a CAFO or a MAFO, you must submit to MDE a NOI Form. CAFOs and MAFOs are also required to submit a required plan (comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) that is developed in accordance with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) technical standards OR a combination of 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). The required plan(s) must comply with the requirements in COMAR 26.08.04.09N(3)(b) and federal regulations in 40 CFR 122.42(e). DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOU GET YOUR REQUIRED PLAN(S) TO SEND IN YOUR NOI if you are required to have permit coverage. To apply for assistance in obtaining a CNMP, contact your local NRCS office. Assistance with NMPs or Conservation Plans can be obtained from your district office.
In order to obtain coverage under the GD 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 the AFO Division at (410) 537-3314, if you want to apply as an individual or self proprietorship.
NOTE: The permit fee and annual fee for coverage are currently waived by the Department.
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 mde.maryland.gov.” The search initiated on this page will serve as notification to the public of the status of AFOs, which have applied for coverage under the GD Permit, State Discharge Permit No. 14AFA and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Discharge Permit No. MDG01A. This permit became effective on August 1, 2016, the result of the modification of GD Permit 14AF as described on this page. PDF files of the NOI and required plans for each AFO undergoing public review will appear in the report generated on the public information search page during the 30-calendar day public participation period.
If you would like to search for the status of AFOs that applied for coverage under the AFO GD Permit, click here.
COMAR 26.08.04.09N(3) describes the public process for CAFOs and MAFOs. This webpage and public information search function contains the required public notices for the AFO Program including the notice of NOI received, notice of preliminary approval, notice of final approval, and the notice of registration. The public information search page will have a PDF of the NOI and the required pland during the 30-day public notice period. If a public hearing is scheduled, the notice and location will appear on the primary AFO webpage. The Notice of Final Approval will appear on the primary AFO webpage for at least the 15 day period during which a contested-case hearing can be requested. Most information on the specific public process for a particular AFO is available by utilizing the public information search function at the top of this webpage (number 9 in the Quick Reference section). The entire public participation process for AFOs and documents undergoing public review is described on the public information search page and can be found by clicking here.
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.
MDE has developed a list of frequently asked questions, a checklistdescribing the entire procedure, and a diagram where you can determine whether you need a permit for your AFO.
USDA_Natural Resource Conservation Service Contact List
New Source CAFO Design Criteria
Optional Recordkeeping Forms for CAFOs and MAFOs: MDE has developed forms for the use by AFOs subject to the GD Permit to document the information required to be tracked by the GD 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.
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
A. Maryland Court of Appeals Uphold CAFO/MAFO Permit
Maryland's General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations (General Discharge Permit)(09AF, MDG01) has been upheld as a valid general permit by the Maryland courts. This removes uncertainty for AFOs that the GD Permit is legally sufficient. All AFOs that meet the requirements for needing coverage under the GD 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 GD Permit. This GD Permit was renewed on December 1, 2014.
B. CAFO/MAFO Annual Reports are Due on March 1st of Every Year
All concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that are registered under the "General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations" are required to submit their CAFO/MAFO Annual Implementation Reports (AIR Form) by March 1st of every year covering the previous calendar year.
For the last several years, 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 who 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 AFO AIR Form, please contact MDA at 410-841-5959. Registered MAFOs are required to submit the standard MDA AIR Form to MDA.
These forms and instructions are available on the MDA website, www.mda.maryland.gov. Follow the "Nutrient Management" link.
C. MDE Provides Catastrophic Poultry Mortality Guidance
MDE has developed 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 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 AFO regulations and permit, MDE consulted with the MDA, 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
COC requirements and procedures can be found here.
F. Click Here for information on Maryland Department of Agriculture's Pesticide Container Recycling Program (June through September 2013)
Information on the MDA Pesticide Container Recycling Program can be found here.
G. Tentative Determination for GD Permit 14AF/MDG01 and Notification of Public Hearing Published
The tentative determination for the GD Permit 14AF/MDG01 and Notification of Public Hearing Published can be found here
H. Final Determination for GD Permit (MDG01, 14AF) Published
The final determination for the GD Permit 14AF/MDG01 can be found here.
I. Tentative Determination for Modification of GD Permit 14AFA/MDG01A Published
The Tentative Determination for Modification of the GD Permit 14AFA/MDG01A can be found here. The Tentative Determination has also been published in the Salisbury Daily Times on March 3 and 10, 2016, the Queen Anne's Record Observer on March 4 and 11, 2016, and the Frederick News-Post on March 1 and 8, 2016.
J. Modification of GD Permit
The renewed GD Permit that became effective on December 1, 2014 was recently modified pursuant to the Department, Food & Water Watch, and the Assateague Coastal Trust's Consent Order and to clarify two other provisions of the GD Permit not subject to the Consent Order. These modifications were published as a Tentative Determination in the Salisbury Daily Times on March 3 and 10, 2016, the Queen Anne's Record Observer on March 4 and 11, 2016, and the Frederick News-Post on March 1 and 8, 2016. No comments were received and in accordance with COMAR 26.08.04.01-3 A(1) the Tentative Determination became a Final Determination on April 4, 2016.
This information is presented for those who are interested in the history of the development of the regulations and the 2009 GD 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 GD Permit for AFOs on January 2, 2009; however, issuance of the GD 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 GD Permit conforms to federal and State law. The issuance of this Final Decision allows MDE to issue the GD 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 GD Permit.
The Assateague Coastkeepers, Waterkeeper Alliance and the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper argued that the GD Permit was deficient because it was not as stringent as federal law. MDE argued that the GD 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 GD Permit was valid.
On September 6, 2011, the Court of Special Appeals (CSA) agreed with MDE and the lower decisions and held that the GD Permit was at least as stringent as federal law. The CSA held that certain challenged provisions of the GD 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 GD Permit would not cause or contribute to violations of water quality standards because the GD 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.
Maryland’s General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations(09AF, MDG01) has been upheld as a valid general permit by the Maryland courts. This removes uncertainty for AFOs that the GD Permit is legally sufficient. All AFOs that meet the requirements for needing coverage under the GD Permit should submit an NOI, if they have not already done so.
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