Agriculture: Laws and Regulations that Apply to Your Agricultural Operation by Farm Activity

This is a general description of EPA’s requirements, and should only be used as a guide. Since rules and regulations may change, use this information as a starting place to determine which regulations apply to your agricultural operation.

About these lists:

  • Programs applicable to the general public, common to multiple sectors, manufacturers of food products, and retailers may not be included.
  • Some requirements only apply after a threshold is reached [e.g., size, geographical location].
  • Many States have similar requirements to EPA’s but may be more stringent or broader in scope.

Check with your State and/or EPA Regional Office for more information. 

Livestock, Poultry and Aquaculture (including beef, dairy, swine, poultry, aquaculture)
Topic Type of Farm or Ranch Activity Link to Program Area Information Requirements of Farm
Aquaculture

Criteria to determine which aquaculture discharges require an NPDES permit.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Concentrated Aquatic Animal Production (CAAP) facilities

Permit required if meet specific conditions

Livestock and Poultry Production

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations that discharge to a water of the U.S.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation Rule

NPDES Permit required if CAFO discharges to a water of the U.S.

Livestock and Poultry Production

All Large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations that land apply manure.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation Rule

Large CAFOs that land apply manure must meet nutrient planning requirements.

Permit required if CAFO discharges to a water of the U.S.

 

Livestock facilities with manure management systems for livestock manure that emit equal to or greater than 25,000 metric tons CO2e per year. EPA’s analysis of this emission source estimates 100- 110 of the largest livestock facilities would be required to report.

A manure management system stabilizes or stores livestock manure in one or more of the following system components:

  • Uncovered anaerobic lagoons
  • Liquid/slurry systems (with and without crust covers, and including but not limited to ponds and tanks)
  • Storage pits
  • Digesters, including covered anaerobic lagoons
  • Solid manure storage
  • Drylots, including feedlots
  • High-rise houses for poultry production (poultry production without litter)
  • Poultry production with litter
  • Deep bedding systems for cattle and swine
  • Manure composting
  • Aerobic treatment
Greenhouse Gas Reporting

Very large livestock facilities with emissions over the threshold would be required to report emission estimates.

  If aggregate of non-fugitive emissions of any regulated pollutant exceeds 100 tpy. Also, generally, sources that are major under Section 112, Section 302, or Part D of title I are also considered major under title V and required to obtain a title V permit. Title V Permit Apply for permit
  The source must apply for a permit if aggregate of non-fugitive emissions of any regulated pollutant exceeds a certain threshold amount depending on the attainment/non-attainment status of the area and on the pollutant. This requirement applies to new sources as well as to major modifications of sources. New Source Review / Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit Apply for permit

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Crop Production (including nurseries, greenhouses, forestry)
Topic

Type of Farm or Ranch Activity:

Link to Program Area Information

Requirements of Farm

Pesticide use by workers or handlers:

Mixing, loading and application of pesticides and any other farm labor that involves exposure to pesticides.

Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)

Pesticide Label

Worker Protection Standard

Label restrictions typically require protective clothing and engineering controls (e.g., tractors with enclosed cabs and air recirculation systems).

Restricted Pesticide Use:

Pest control with the use of ‘restricted use’ pesticides.

Certification and training regulations

Required training for farmers and/or their pesticide applicators that use ‘restricted use’ pesticides.

Pesticide Use:

Storage and disposal of pesticides and pesticide containers.

Pesticide Containers

Pesticide Storage

Pesticide Disposal

Follow label instructions for storing and disposing of pesticides and containers.

Pesticide Use and Water:

Applications of (1) biological pesticides and (2) chemical pesticides that leave a residue, in which applications are made directly to waters of the United States, or where a portion of the pesticide will unavoidably be deposited to waters of the United States.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Water Related Pesticides Rule 

Applications required to be covered under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

Pesticide use and endangered species:

Pest control on farmland or forests that have endangered species habitat.

EPA Office of Pesticide Programs Endangered Species Protection Program

Bulletins Live

Farmer must follow label requirements and county bulletin requirements (if available) to ensure protection of endangered species.

Pesticide Use:

Crop and livestock production practices that involve pest control.

Pesticide Label

Follow label instructions to apply pesticide legally.

Pesticide Use:

Farms that dispose of pesticide residues and rinsates off-site

Waste pesticides

Pesticide Disposal

Proper disposal of pesticide hazardous wastes

Waste pesticides disposed of on a farmer’s own property in compliance with specified waste management requirements, including the disposal instructions on the pesticide label, are not subject to the TSD facility standards. 

Even wastes that exhibit one or more of the characteristics of a hazardous waste are exempt from regulation when the farmer triple rinses each emptied pesticide container and disposes of the rinsate on his own farm in compliance with the disposal instructions on the label.

However,

  • if the rinsate is characterized as "acute hazardous waste," some regulations may apply.
  • if the pesticides have been recalled, some RCRA regulations may apply. 
  • disposal of hazardous waste could subject farmers to hazardous waste generator requirements. 

Irrigation return flows are not solid wastes.  Farmers can dispose of non-hazardous waste (e.g. agricultural wastes including manure, crop residues returned to the soil as fertilizers or soil conditioners; solid or dissolved materials in irrigation return flows) on their own property unless prohibited by other State or local laws.

Land Application:

Farms that land apply biosolids or which own land on which biosolids are land applied.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) - Biosolids

Federal permit generally not required, but farms must directly meet regulatory requirements for pollutant limits, management practices, operational standards, reporting and other requirements.

Forestry:

Rock crushing, gravel washing, log sorting, and log storage facilities

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Silviculture

Permit required for specific forestry activities

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Provision of Drinking Water
Topic

Type of Farm or Ranch Activity:

Link to Program Area Information

Requirements of Farm

Drinking water:

Farms providing for human consumption (e.g., drinking, showering) from its own source to 25 people or through 15 service connections for more than 59 days/year

Small Drinking Water Systems

Total coliform, nitrate testing most likely.

Surface water source would invoke other Non Drinking Water regulations.

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Farm Facilities, Fuel and Equipment
Topic

Type of Farm or Ranch Activity:

Link to Program Area Information

Requirements of Farm

Reciprocating internal combustion engines:

The engine must comply with this regulation if it is located at a facility whose emissions are at least 10tpy of one HAP or 25tpy of total HAP and if the engine itself is at least 500 HP.

Stationary Engines or Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines (RICE) (National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP) – 40 CFR Part 63, subpart ZZZZ)/Standards of Performance for Stationary Spark Ignition Internal Combustion Engines (New Source Performance Standards – 40 CFR Part 60, subpart JJJJ)/Standards of Performance for Stationary Compression Ignition Internal Combustion Engines (New Source Performance Standards – 40 CFR Part 60, Subpart IIII)

Comply with regulatory requirements

On and Off-Road equipment:

Farm vehicles, engines, equipment and fuels.

Mobile Source Program

Producers are subject to various mobile source requirements, similar to other similar users/operators of highway and off-road vehicles, engines, equipment, and fuel.

Oil Storage:

Farm that stores, transfers, uses, or consumes oil or oil products, such as diesel fuel, gasoline, lube oil, hydraulic oil, adjuvant oil, crop oil, vegetable oil, or animal fat; and stores more than 2,500 U.S. gallons in aboveground containers; and could reasonably be expected to discharge oil to waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines, such as interstate waters, intrastate lakes, rivers, and streams.

Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures (SPCC)

Prepare and implement an SPCC Plan (plan may need to be certified by a professional engineer or farmer may be able to self-certify, see link for more information)

Oil Storage:

Any farm/facility storing more than 1,000,000 gallons of oil in above ground storage or 42,000 gallons where transfers occur over water.

Facility Response Plan (FRP)

Prepare a Facility Response Plan and submit to EPA

Underground storage tanks (UST):

Farms with underground storage tanks with a capacity of more than 1,100 gallons of motor fuel.

Farm and residential USTs and their associated underground piping holding less than 1,100 gallons of motor fuel for non-commercial purposes, tanks holding less than 110 gallons, tanks holding heating oil used on the premises, septic tanks, and other listed tanks are excluded from regulations.

Underground storage tanks (UST)

Underground storage tanks that are not excluded must meet regulations related to design, construction, installation, notification, monitoring, operating, release detection, reporting to State or Federal regulatory agencies, owner record keeping, corrective action, closure and financial responsibility.

Used Oil

Farms storing more than 25 gallons in underground or above-ground tanks.

Farmers who generate an average of 25 gallons or less per month of used oil from vehicles or machinery used on the farm in a calendar year are exempt from used oil regulations.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Training Module on Used Oil

Farmers exceeding 25 gallons are required to store the used oil in tanks meeting underground or above ground technical requirements and use transporters with EPA authorization numbers for removal from the farm.

Oil spill:

Any farm that has a discharge of oil that may reach navigable waters or adjoining shoreline

Oil Pollution Prevention

Report spills of oil that reach waterways to the National Response Center

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Buildings/Construction/Renovation
Topic

Type of Farm or Ranch Activity:

Link to Program Area Information

Requirements of Farm

Building/Construction Stormwater discharges from construction activities (such as clearing, grading, excavating, and stockpiling) that disturb one or more acres, or smaller sites that are part of a larger common plan of development or sale, are regulated under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater program. 

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Stormwater

Obtain a permit or obtain coverage under a general permit prior to discharging stormwater.
Building renovation/demolition:

Renovations of buildings which contain a certain threshold amount of friable asbestos, and during demolitions of all structures, installations, and facilities (except apartment buildings that have no more than four dwelling units).

Air program/Asbestos

The Asbestos National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) is intended to minimize the release of asbestos fibers during activities involving the handling of asbestos. Accordingly, it specifies work practices to be followed during renovations of buildings.

Dredge and Fill:

Discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S.; The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) makes permit decisions and jurisdictional determinations, with EPA oversight.

Clean Water Rule

What the Clean Water Rule Does Not Do

Wetlands/404 Program

Permit for non-exempt activities

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Wastes
Topic

Type of Farm or Ranch Activity:

Link to Program Area Information

Requirements of Farm

Underground injection:

Farms operating injection well(s)

Underground Injection Control

Submit injection well inventory information; must not endanger underground sources of drinking water

Hazardous waste:

Farms that generate, transport, treat, store or dispose of hazardous waste

Subtitle C hazardous waste

Proper handling of listed and characteristic hazardous

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Air Emissions/Releases
Topic

Type of Farm or Ranch Activity:

Link to Program Area Information

Requirements of Farm

 

Farms located in air “non-attainment” areas

Clean Air Act

Click here to determine if you are in a non-attainment area.

Particulate Matter (PM) National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS):  Some agricultural sources in PM10 nonattainment areas are impacted by PM10 standards to satisfy reasonably available control measures and control technologies requirements. PM2.5 SIPs will be due no later than April 2008.  In those SIPs, states will evaluate, on an area by area basis, whether there is a need to regulate PM 2.5 or PM 2.5 precursors from ag related sources.

Ozone  NAAQS:  Some agricultural areas are impacted by these standards which primarily deal with nitrogen oxides (NOX)  and Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)  emissions.  These have the potential to impact some animal production practices and have potential to impact pesticide application practices.  NOX emissions from stationary engines could be impacted by these standards and the corollary implementation rules.

Air emissions:

If aggregate of non-fugitive emissions of any regulated pollutant exceeds 100 tpy. Also, generally, sources that are major under Section 112, Section 302, or Part D of title I are also considered major under title V and required to obtain a title V permit.

Title V Permit

Apply for permit

Air emissions:

The source must apply for a permit if aggregate of non-fugitive emissions of any regulated pollutant exceeds a certain threshold amount depending on the attainment/non-attainment status of the area and on the pollutant. This requirement applies to new sources as well as to major modifications of sources.

New Source Review / Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit

Apply for permit

Hazardous substance release:

Any farm handling Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) hazardous substances that has had or currently has a threat of a release that is determined to be an imminent and substantial danger to public health or welfare.

Emergency response

Allow access to federal responders; hire contractor(s) for response/cleanup actions

Hazardous substance release:

Any farm that has a release of a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) hazardous substance above a reportable quantity (RQ). Release could be to the atmosphere, soil, surface water or groundwater.

Release reporting-- episodic or continuous

Report releases of hazardous substances to the National Response Center.

Hazardous substance releases:

Any farm that releases more than a reportable quantity or more of an extremely hazardous substance or a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) hazardous substance.

Hazardous chemicals used in routine agricultural operations or a fertilizer held for resale by a retailer are excluded.

Emergency release reporting

Report releases of extremely hazardous substances or CERCLA hazardous substances to state and local emergency planning entities

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Chemical Handling
Topic

Type of Farm or Ranch Activity:

Link to Program Area Information

Requirements of Farm

Hazardous substances:

Farms that handle hazardous substances.

General duty for chemical accident prevention

The owners and operators of stationary sources (facility) that handle any extremely hazardous substance in any quantity have a general duty to identify hazards, design and operate a safe facility and to prevent and/or mitigate accidental releases

Hazardous substances:

Any farm handling more than a threshold quantity of extremely hazardous substances or substances requiring an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) material safety data sheet (MSDS)

Emergency Planning & Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA)

Report inventory of certain extremely hazardous substances to State and local planning entities

Toxic and/or flammable substances:

Facilities that handle more than a threshold quantity of certain toxic and/or flammable substances

Listed agricultural nutrients when held by a farmer are excluded (e.g. ammonia); and flammables used as a fuel

Risk Management Program and Plan (RMP)

Must implement a chemical accident program and prepare and submit a Risk Management Plan (RMP) to EPA

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