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Animal Feeding Operations - Compliance and Enforcement

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Animal Feeding Operations Highlights

To help animal feeding operations comply with environmental requirements, EPA offers many types of compliance assistance and incentives. EPA is also responsible for conducting a federal regulatory enforcement program with respect to environmental requirements.

EPA has put together a series of answers to commonly asked questions to help livestock and poultry operation owners and operators understand what to expect from EPA National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) inspections (PDF) (5 pp, 296k)

EPA Policy and Guidance

Compliance Assistance Information

EPA Enforcement Cases

Clean Water Act Compliance Audit Program for Pork Producers

EPA and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) have agreed to a comprehensive Clean Water Act Compliance Audit Program (CAP). The NPPC, which represents pork producers nationally, plans to have independent auditors conduct more than 10,000 of the audits nationwide to improve environmental management practices and assure compliance with the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act CAP provides incentives for pork producers to undertake voluntary, comprehensive, on-farm environment assessments by greatly reducing penalties for any Clean Water Act violations that are promptly disclosed and corrected under this program.

This program was developed after the NPPC approached EPA to propose an environmental assessment program for the industry. The NPPC developed a comprehensive and rigorous evaluation process for reviewing pork production facilities that is designed to assure the protection of our nation's waterways by improving environmental protection controls at pork farms throughout the United States.

This compliance audit program is the result of an agreement between EPA and the NPPC that provides reasonable incentives for pork producers without compromising EPA's and the States' ability to enforce the law consistently and appropriately. The program demonstrates how government and industry can come together to find practical and resourceful solutions for reducing waste runoff into our nation's rivers, lakes and streams.

Voluntary Compliance Audit Program



Environmental Benefits

Federal Register Notice

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EPA Office of Inspector General: Report on Animal Waste Disposal Issues

In July 1995, animal waste from an eight-acre lagoon in North Carolina burst through its dike, spilling approximately 22 million gallons of animal waste into the New River. The spill was twice the size of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.  Information related to this and five other spills occurring in the summer of 1995  were reviewed to determine what actions the state took before and after the spills, and to determine what EPA could do to reduce the possibility of animal waste spills in the future.

Summary:  North Carolina is the number one meat-producing state in the nation. For hogs alone, the animal waste produced for disposal is an estimated 9.5 million tons per year. In the summer of 1995, North Carolina experienced six spills from animal waste lagoons totaling almost 30 million gallons.  North Carolina has not issued any National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits to livestock or poultry facilities. Nationwide, only 30 percent of the estimated 6,600 operations meeting concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) size requirements have been issued NPDES permits (although not all are required to have permits). 

North Carolina, which was delegated NPDES authority in 1976, has had a no-discharge state program for animal feeding operations (AFOs) that has been stricter than federal regulations. For example, before 1993, state regulations set requirements on hog facilities with 250 hogs, whereas federal regulations are not automatically applicable until the facility has 2,500 hogs weighing an average of 55 pounds. In 1993, the state started strengthening its animal waste management program by requiring facility registration and certified animal waste management plans.  

As a result of the animal waste spills in 1995, the state further strengthened its animal waste management program. Additional requirements included permitting, stricter lagoon construction requirements, annual inspection requirements, certification of operators of the waste management system, and citing requirements for the animal feeding operations. The permitting system requires an animal waste management plan, which state personnel call the "backbone" of the permit system. The plan establishes the individual requirements for a facility including nutrient management. The improvements in the state's program are due to the state's efforts, involving several different state offices, with significant assistance from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the USDA. EPA was not significantly involved in this effort. 

Even with its efforts to strengthen its animal waste management programs beyond federal requirements, North Carolina experienced problems with these programs, including the spills cited previously. Twenty-two states, by law, cannot adopt environmental program regulations that are more restrictive than the specific requirements in federal regulations. Therefore, should any of these states experience problems similar to North Carolina, they will neither be able to readily strengthen state environmental regulations to prevent future occurrences, nor can they rely on federal regulations to provide this protection.

Land application, nutrient management, specific facility construction, and waste system operator training and certification are critical elements of North Carolina's animal waste management and regulatory program. Federal regulations do not address these elements, but the regulations allow NPDES permits to include land application procedures where the land application is a necessary part of the animal waste management system. EPA encourages including the remaining elements. Permitting helps ensure that the critical elements of a good animal waste management system are adhered to. Permitting also enhances compliance efforts. Under existing regulations, when inspecting an unpermitted facility, the inspector may be able to take expedient action only upon observing a discharge from a lagoon.

"Pollution prevention first" is an Agency strategy. The goal for the CAFO program should be to prevent a spill before it occurs. The permit can be the tool to help achieve that goal. Therefore, the Agency should maximize use of current permitting authority. Current regulations allow permitting authorities (federal or state) to designate an AFO as a CAFO on a case-by-case basis if the operation is a significant contributor to pollution of waters of the U.S. Permitting authorities must complete an on-site inspection that considers factors such as size, location, vegetation, rainfall and other elements that affect the likelihood or frequency of discharge prior to designating a CAFO. The designation process may be time and manpower intensive; however, it offers a measure of protection that otherwise would not occur.

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Information from EPA Regions

To determine which region applies to you, please visit Where You Live.

Region 5 - Contains AFO Sector Profile, EPA contacts, Federal and State program information, and technical and financial assistance information
Region 6 - Contains contact information, access to the CAFO database, permit references, and permit inspection forms
Region 7 - Contains contact information, where to register CAFO complaints, and information on permitting and inspection programs
Region 9 - Contains general information, EPA efforts in the states, tools and techniques, laws, terms, and contact information

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Information from States Exit EPA

Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center - offers innovative manure management resources and programs from across the country.

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