AFO Program Summary

Facts about North Carolina’s Animal Feeding Operations Program:

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality's Animal Feeding Operations Program has regulated animal operations (swine, cattle, horses and liquid waste treatment system poultry) and established siting requirements for application setbacks from property boundaries and perennial streams since 1992.  

Animal operations are defined by General Statute 143-215.10B as feedlots involving more than 250 swine, 100 confined cattle, 75 horses, 1,000 sheep, or 30,000 poultry with a liquid waste management system. 

North Carolina has the strongest permit program for concentrated animal feeding operations in the country and is one of the only states that requires annual inspections of every facility. The state’s permitting requirements for animal feeding operations in North Carolina can be found at /about/divisions/water-resources/water-resources-permits/wastewater-branch/animal-feeding-operation-permits/permits. Nearly all of the permitted swine facilities are covered by the N.C. Swine Waste Management System General Permit, which is valid for five years and was renewed in 2014 following extensive public involvement. The general permit contains the required performance standards, operation and maintenance requirements, monitoring and reporting requirements, policy for inspections and entry to the farms, general conditions and the penalty policy. Each general permit is issued with a Certificate of Coverage that is permittee-specific and designates the permitted number and type of animals.

All permitted animal operations are required to have a Certified Animal Waste Management Plan (CAWMP) that has been developed by a Certified Technical Specialist.  The CAWMP is incorporated into the permit by reference and defines the fields to which the waste is applied, the crops to be grown and other details of the operation. All waste must be applied at no greater than agronomic rates – an amount that can be used productively by the crops planted.

In 1997, North Carolina implemented a moratorium on new and expanded swine farms. That moratorium was made permanent in 2007 for farms that use anaerobic waste lagoons as primary waste treatment. Currently, any new or expanding swine farm must meet five performance standards.  These standards are further detailed in the North Carolina Administrative Code, 15A NCAC 02T .1307-.1308 and 15A NCAC 02D .1808.  Therefore, the 2014 General Permit for swine are renewal permits for previously existing operations only. 

USGS Study

The North Carolina Division of Water Resources (DWR) partnered with the U.S. Geologic Survey to design and implement a study of nitrogen profiles in watersheds adjacent to animal operations in Eastern North Carolina. DWR used grant money to help fund half of the study, in which USGS scientists took water samples from 54 agricultural sites in the Coastal Plain area in order to assess water-quality differences among streams draining watersheds with and without concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

The study did not find any evidence that water quality standards were violated as a result of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the area. However, it serves to provide additional scientific information on how CAFOS impact water quality. DEQ is taking the findings of the report under consideration as the CAFO program moves forward and evolves.   

Results of the study were released June 23, 2015. A full copy of the report, “Surface-Water Quality in Agricultural Watersheds of the North Carolina Coastal Plain Associated with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations,” is available online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2015/5080/.

 

North Carolina’s general statutes for animal operations:

  • 143-215.10B defines the threshold for facilities requiring a permit.
  • 143-215.10C establishes applications and permitting requirements.
  • 143-215.10D addresses operation reviews to be conducted by Division of Soil & Water Conservation.
  • 143-215.10E establishes violations that require immediate notification.
  • 143-215.10F establishes the requirement for annual inspections on all permitted animal operations.
  • 143-215.10G establishes permit fees.
  • 143-215.10H requires facilities to register the name of the integrator with which they are affiliated.
  • 143-215.10I establishes the performance standards for new/expanding swine farms.