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

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 is 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. 

Clean Water Act (CWA)/Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)

Program Area

Requirements of Farm

Type of Facility Applies To:

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Rule

Permit required or cease discharges.

Note: Animal feeding operations not required to obtain a NPDES permit may be regulated by state programs.

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

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Rule

Nutrient management planning

Large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations that land apply their manure.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Water Related Pesticides Rule

Permit Required

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 irrigation ditches or other instances of pesticide application on, over, or near water bodies.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Stormwater 

Obtain a permit or coverage under a general permit prior to discharging stormwater. 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)

Silviculture

Permit required for specific forestry activities

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

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Concentrated Aquatic Animal Production (CAAP) 

Permit required if meet specific conditions

Flow through, recirculating, and net pen systems that:

(1) produce more than 9,090 harvest weight kilograms (about 20,000 pounds of cold water fish (trout, salmon); or (2) produce more than 45,454 harvest weight kilograms (about 100,000 pounds) of warm water fish (e.g., catfish, sunfish, minnows) and that discharge either continuously or more than 30 days/year.

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.

Farm that land applies biosolids or that owns land on which biosolids are land applied.

Clean Water Act Section 404

Clean Water Rule

Permit for non-exempt activities

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

What the Clean Water Rule Does Not Do

Underground Injection Control

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

Farms operating injection well(s)

Small Drinking Water Systems

Total coliform, nitrate testing most likely. Surface water source would invoke other non drinking water regulations

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

Oil Pollution Prevention

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

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

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)

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.

Facility Response Plan (FRP)

Prepare an FRP and submit to EPA

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.

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Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)
Program Area Requirements of Farm Farming Practice Affected

Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) – Pesticide Label

Follow label instructions to apply pesticide legally.

Crop and livestock production practices that involve pest control.

Worker Protection Standard (WPS)

Label restrictions that typically require protective clothing and engineering controls (ex: tractors with enclosed cabs and air recirculation systems).

Farms that use farm labor to mix, load or apply pesticides and any other activity that involves exposure to pesticides.

Certification and training regulations

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

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

Pesticide Storage

Pesticide Disposal

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

Storage and disposal of pesticides and pesticide containers.

EPA Office of Pesticide Programs Endangered Species Protection Program

Bulletins Live

Farmer must follow label requirements and county bulletin requirements.

Farms that require pest control on farmland that have endangered species habitat.

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Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA)
Program Area Requirements of Farm Type of Facility Applies To:

Waste pesticides

Proper disposal of pesticide hazardous wastes

Farms that dispose of pesticide residues and rinsates off-site

Underground storage tanks

Meet design and technical requirements; report to state; recordkeeping; financial responsibilities

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 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

Meet storage and transport technical requirements

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. 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.

Subtitle C hazardous waste

Proper handling of listed and characteristic hazardous

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

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Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA/Superfund)
Program Area Requirements of Farm Type of Facility Applies To:

Release reporting-- episodic or continuous

Report releases of hazardous substances to the National Response Center (NRC).*

*Farms with continuous releases do not have to submit their initial continuous release notification until the DC Circuit Court of Appeals issues its order, or mandate, enforcing the Court’s opinion of April 11, 2017.  No reporting is necessary until the mandate is issued. To expedite your initial continuous release notification to the National Response Center, you may use the temporary email option.

Any farm that has a release equal to or above the reportable quantity.

Emergency response

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

Any farm handling 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.

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Clean Air Act (CAA)
Program Area Requirements of Farm Type of Facility Applies To:

Clean Air Act

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.

Comply with your state's State Implementation Plan (SIP).  

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

Farms located in air “non-attainment” areas

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.

Asbestos - Comply with requirements to minimize the release of asbestos fibers during activities involving the handling of asbestos. Comply with work practices to be followed during renovations of buildings.

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).

Title V Permit

The source must apply for a permit 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.

Any stationary source.

In determining major source status, emissions from all operations at the farm must be considered, including stationary sources such as boilers and internal combustion engines but excluding mobile sources such as tractors.  For farms, fugitive emissions are not included in determining whether a source is major. Fugitive emissions are those "...which could not reasonably pass through a stack, chimney, vent, or other functionally equivalent opening."

New Source Review / Prevention of Significant Deterioration 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.

Any stationary source.

In determining major source status, emissions from all operations at the farm must be considered, including stationary sources such as boilers and internal combustion engines but excluding mobile sources such as tractors.  For farms, fugitive emissions are not included in determining whether a source is major. Fugitive emissions are those "...which could not reasonably pass through a stack, chimney, vent, or other functionally equivalent opening."

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)

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 or reciprocating internal combustion engines (RICE).

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.

On and Off-Road equipment:

Farm vehicles, engines, equipment and fuels.

General duty for chemical accident prevention (2 page PDF fact sheet, 50.2 KB)

Farms 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

Agricultural nutrients when held by a farmer excluded (ammonia)

Risk Management Program and Plan (RMP)

Farms that handle more than a threshold quantity of certain toxic and/or flammable substances must implement a chemical accident program and prepare and submit a Risk Management Plan (RMP) to EPA

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

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Emergency Planning & Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA)
Program Area Requirements of Farm Type of Facility Applies To:

Emergency Planning & Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA)

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

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 release reporting

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

Any farm that releases more than a reportable quantity or more of an extremely hazardous substance or a CERCLA hazardous substance.

Release reporting

Report releases of hazardous substances to the National Response Center (NRC).*

*Farms with continuous releases do not have to submit their initial continuous release notification until the DC Circuit Court of Appeals issues its order, or mandate, enforcing the Court’s opinion of April 11, 2017.  No reporting is necessary until the mandate is issued. To expedite your initial continuous release notification to the National Response Center, you may use the temporary email option.

Any farm that has a release equal to or above the reportable quantity.

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