Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version



Published by University of Nebraska – Lincoln’s Livestock Environmental Issues Committee.


New EPA Rules Targeting Livestock and Poultry Industry Congress passed the Clean Water Act (CWA) in 1972 to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters." Among its core provisions, it prohibits the discharge of pollutants from a point source to waters of the United States except as authorized by an NPDES permit. EPA's regulation of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) under the CWA dates to the 1970s. EPA established effluent guidelines for feedlots in 1974 based on the best available technology that was economically achievable for the industry. CAFO regulations issued in 1976 determined which animal feeding operations (AFOs) were defined or could be designated as CAFOs under the CWA and therefore subject to NPDES permit regulations.
The new CAFO rules that took affect April 14, 2003 were adopted within the authority of the 1972 CWA to address changes in the animal feeding industries. The final rules are more inclusive of all livestock and poultry sectors, removed several registration exemptions, reflect a greater focus on land application of manure and wastewater, and emphasize accountability, inspections, and record keeping while retaining appropriate state flexibility. The rule eliminates current permitting exemptions and expands coverage over types of animals in three important ways: 1) the rule eliminates the exemption that excuses CAFOs from applying for permits if they only discharge during large storms; 2) the rule eliminates the exemption for operations that raise chickens with dry manure handling systems; and 3) the rule extends coverage to immature swine and immature dairy cows.
The new rule will affect large livestock and poultry operations. Large CAFOs are defined in the rule as operations raising more than 1,000 cattle, 700 dairy cows, 2,500 swine, 10,000 sheep, 125,000 chickens, 82,000 laying hens, and 55,000 turkeys in confinement.