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Maryland State Government Maryland Department of the Environment

AFO (CAFO/MAFO) Information Page

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.

Quick Reference to AFO Program forms and documents

  1. Form requesting transfer of registration to new owner/operator or new operator for operations that have been registered as a CAFO or MAFO

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CAFO/MAFO Public Information Search Tool

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 pubolic information search during the 30-calendar day public participation period.  Click here to use the search tool.

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 List of MDE Requirements for New and Expanding Poultry House Construction Available

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 including pre-construction, during construction, and post-construction.  This list can be found by clicking here

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 Notice to All AFOs
      March 12, 2015

For the first year of issuance (2014 – 2015), MDE is waiving the annual permit fee requirement for registration under the renewed GD Permit (NPDES Permit No. MDE01; State Discharge Permit No. 14AF), for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)*.  This waiver is to allow MDE time to revise the current fee regulations. Therefore:

1. If you have already submitted your Notice of Intent (NOI) for your operation with no fee, MDE will send you a payment notice in November, 2015;

2. If you have submitted your NOI for your operation with a fee, the amount submitted will be credited to your account and no further payment will be necessary until year three;

3. If your operation was registered under the previous GD Permit, but you have not submitted a new NOI for coverage under the renewed GD Permit for your operation, you must submit a NOI as soon as possible.  MDE will send you a payment notice in November, 2015; or

4. If you sent in an NOI and required plan(s) for the previous GD Permit but were not registered under the previous GD Permit, you must submit a NOI as soon as possible.  MDE will send you a payment notice in November, 2015.

All NOIs must be submitted to:

Maryland Department of the Environment
Land Management Administration
1800 Washington Blvd., Suite 610
Baltimore, MD  21230-1719

If you have any questions, please contact the AFO Division at (410) 537-3314.

*The annual CAFO permit fees are: $800 (large), $300 (medium), and $60 (small).  These fees will be subject to regulatory review over the summer months.  Please note that Maryland Animal Feeding Operations (MAFOs) do not require a fee.

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   Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) in Maryland Must Take Action to Continue Their General Discharge Permit Registration

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has renewed the GD Permit for AFOs.  The GD Permit that has been in effect since December 1, 2009 expired on November 30, 2014.  The new GD Permit became effective on December 1, 2014, after a public participation process that consisted of the publication of a Tentative Determination on September 5, 2014, a public hearing on October 14, 2014, a written comment period ending October 20, 2014 and the publication of a Final Determination on this website and in the Delmarva Farmer, Salisbury Daily Times, Record Observer, and the Frederick News Post once per week for two consecutive weeks starting November 25, 2014.  A response to comments is also available on this website, along with a Fact Sheet supporting the permit terms and conditions.  MDE mailed notification letters to all registrants on August 26, 2014 with information about permit renewal procedures and a new Notice of Intent (NOI) for the new GD Permit

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Tentative Determination for GD Permit 14AF/MDG01 and Notification of Public Hearing Published

The tentative determination for the GD Permit renewal 14AF/MDG01 can be found here.

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Final Determination for GD Permit (MDG01, 14AF) Published

The final determinatin for the GD Permit 14AF/MDG01 can be found here.

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 Basic Information of Maryland AFO Program

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) and will expire on November 30, 2019.

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 new 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 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) are required to submit to the Department a signed Certification of Conformance (COC) if

  • it consists of the animal type "chickens (other than laying hens) with dry manure handling", has a house capacity greater than 75,000 square feet and less than 100,000 square feet; or
  • it is an existing AFO that has enlarged or reduced the size of its operatin so that it currently meets the criteria for a certification of conformance.

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.

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 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.

NOI Form

NOTE: The permit fee and annual fee for coverage under the GD Permit must be submitted with the NOI.

Public Notices

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.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. 14AF and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Discharge Permit No. MDG01. This permit became effective on December 1, 2014.  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 Permitclick here.

Public Process for CAFOs and MAFOs:

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.  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.  The public participation process for AFOs and documents undergoing public review is on  the public information search page and can be found by clicking here.

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

Documents Answering Basic Questions

MDE has developed a list of frequently asked questions, a checklist describing the entire procedure, and a diagram where you can determine whether you need a permit for your AFO.

Other Documents of Interest/Guidance

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

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) (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" 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" 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 four-page AFO AIR Form, please contact MDA at 410-841-5959.  Registered 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.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)

History

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.

Implications of Ruling

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. 

  January 2009

Contact Us

If you have any questions, please contact the AFO Division at (410) 537-3314.

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