Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs)

The Maryland Department of the Environment's AFO Division helps protect the Chesapeake Bay, local waterways, and our drinking water from nutrient pollution from Maryland's largest agricultural animal operations. The AFO Regulations ​and General Discharge (GD) Permit for AFOs are just one part of a comprehensive, statewide effort to address all sources of pollution that are impairing our waterways: wastewater treatment plants, industrial discharges, septic systems, urban/suburban stormwater runoff, and air emissions from power plants, vehicles, and trucks. 


Organic Poultry Guidance 

Guidance for organic poultry operations in Maryland has been finalized and can be found below under "Quick Links" #3, Item I.

Environmental Justice Screening Requirements 

During the 2022 legislative session, House Bill 1200 (2022 Md. Laws Ch. 588) was passed, which created a new law, §1-601.1 of the Environment Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, and revised the public notice requirements under §1-602 of the Environment Article. 

Under the law, effective October 1, 2022, an applicant for a permit listed under §1-601(a) of the Environment Article must include in the permit application the environmental justice (EJ) score resulting from the use of a Maryland EJ tool, as defined in the law, to screen the census tract where the applicant is seeking a permit, unless the permit applicant is required to use a tool developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  

MDE has created an EJ Screening ​Tool that ​users can generate the EJ score and record it in the EJ Score section in the new 19AF Notice of Intent permit application. The EJ Screening Tool can be found by navigating to the link to MDE's Environmental Justice page found under "Quick Links" #3, Item H.

NOI and ​Fee Reminder 

According to state law and regulation, MDE is legally required to collect fees for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). 

Upon receipt of the NOI application, MDE will invoice the applicant pursuant to COMAR​. MDE will invoice the permittee annually, and the fee shall be paid annually not later than the anniversary of the effective date of the permit. The effective date of the current 19AF General Discharge Permit is July 8, 2020, and the annual permit fee year is defined as July 8 through July 7 of the following year​. MDE is prohibited from issuing permit coverage under the new GD Permit until the applicable fee is paid.

The following fees will be applicable to CAFOs applying for the GD Permit:

CAFOs with Total House Capacity of 350,000 ft2 or More:

  • A proposed new CAFO or modification of an existing CAFO to expand its house capacity to 350,000 ft​2 or more must pay a one-time application fee of $2,000 upon submission of the Notice of Intent (NOI) form.
  • An existing CAFO must pay an annual permit fee of $1,200

CAFOs with Total House Capacity of LESS than 350,000 ft2:

  • A CAFO must pay an annual permit fee in the amount below, based upon the size category:

​CAFO Size  ​ Fee

New Information Required in CNMPs  

Please note that the 19A​F permit requires additional information to be included in the CNMP in order for Maryland Department of the Environment to issue a permit. As stated in the GD Permit Part III.B.5 (p.13) and Parts IV.D.2-D.3 (p.23)- All new CNMPs must include this information, and for existing plans, the information can be attached as an addendum signed by the operator and the plan-writer.  

The following additional information must be included in the CNMP:

  1. Name and distance to the nearest waterbody;
  2. 12 digit watershed name and number (where the farm is located). This information can be found at here​​;
  3. The water quality status of the watershed (If there is a TMDL impairment for bacteria, nitrogen, phosphorus, and/or sediment). This information can be found here;
  4. Whether the facility is located in a Tier 2 watershed. This information can be found here​;
  5. If outdoor air quality is determined to be a resource concern, indicate the appropriate NRCS practice standards used;
  6. For organic poultry, make sure the poultry pasture is accounted for in the Plan;
  7. The Resource Concern Evaluation Worksheet (can be found here​ and under "Quick Links" #2, Item C).

The New (19AF) General Discharge Permit for AFOs (AFO Permit) has been issued 

The permit became effective July 8, 2020 and will expire on July 7, 2025. The permit, Notice of Final Determination, Fact Sheet, and Response to Comments documents are below:​ 


Use this tool to find information about CAFOs or MAFOs who have applied for coverage under the GD Permit including the notice of NOI received, notice of preliminary approval, notice of final approval, and the notice of registration. ​

2. Permits and Applications

 3. Guidance 
4. Additional Forms​
a. Letter for AFO Withdrawal​​​​​
    5. Optional Recordkeeping Forms (the use of these forms are not required)

    6. CAFO Water Q​uality Mo​nitoring Study Report

    SPECIAL NOTICE: Emergency Preparedness  

    AFO Operators:

    Review relevant parts of the General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs). The AFO permit contains steps for you to follow in the event of an unanticipated discharge or upset, including notification to MDE within 24 hours of the discharge. Additionally, AFO operators can prepare for and respond to severe weather by closely monitoring weather conditions, ensuring that manure is stored only within appropriate storage structures and protected from precipitation, and checking manure storage, poultry houses, and other structures for any flooding or damage. 

    General emergency preparedness information can be found on MEMA's website.

    You can reach the Resource Management Program at 410-537-3314. To report an environmental emergency after hours, please call (866) 633-4686.

    Thank you and stay safe!

    SPEC​IAL NOTICE:  Electronic Annual Implementation Report

    The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Electronic Reporting Rule requiring the electronic reporting of the Annual Implementation Reports (AIRs) for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) by December 21, 2020.  On January 31, 2020, the NPDES eRule Phase 2 Extension rule was signed, providing states additional time to implement electronic reporting. EPA extended the compliance deadline for implementation of Phase 2 of the eRule by three years, from December 21, 2020 to December 21, 2023.

    To prepare for this, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is currently developing it's electronic AIR (e-AIR). For more information on the Electronic Reporting Rule or the e-AIR, feel free to contact the AFO Division at 410-537-3314. 


    Public Process for CAFOs and MAFOs:

    Pursuant to COMAR, a NOI and required plan(s) submitted by an AFO applying for coverage under the GD Permit is/are subject to the public participation process. Public notification required by this regulation may be accomplished by posting on MDE’s website at This webpage and the Public​ Information Search Tool​ contain the required public notices of preliminary approval of the required plan(s). The notice provides for a 30 day public comment period, during which a PDF of the NOI and the required plan(s)​ is available.  The NOI and required plan(s) are also available for public review at the Department by appointment.​

    A public hearing may be scheduled on the preliminary approval for a CAFO when a written request is made within 20 days of the publication of notice of the preliminary approval. The Department also may, at its discretion, schedule a public hearing. If a public hearing is scheduled, the notice and location will appear on the AFO webpage (below).  The purpose of the public hearing(s) is (are) to provide an additional opportunity for the general public to provide comments to the Department about the approval of the required plan(s).

    In the case of inclement weather, defined by the closure of the local county school system during the day of the hearing, the hearing will be postponed to a future date.  Upon request, an interpreter for the deaf or hearing-impaired person will be provided.  For further information regarding a notice, to schedule an appointment to review the application(s), or request an interpreter, please contact the AFO Division at (410) 537-3314.

     For further information on the entire public participation process for AFOs and documents undergoing public review, visit the Public Information Search Tool​ page.​


    Notice of Public Hearing(s) for Coverage Under the General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations:

    Notice is hereby given that the Maryland Department of the Environment (the "Department") has received (an) application(s) for coverage under the General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations (GD Permit) from the following AFO(s):

    Name of AFOLocation of AFO
    ​No public hearings scheduled.​​


    In accordance with Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR), the following person(s) have requested that the Department conduct a public hearing regarding the Department's approval of the listed AFO(s)' required plan(s):

    Name of AFORequestor
    ​​No public hearings scheduled.​​​

    Notice is given that the Department will hold (a) public hearing(s) regarding the approval of the required plan(s) at 6:00 PM on the following date(s) and at the following location(s):

    Name of AFODate of Public HearingLocation of Public Hearing
    ​​No public hearings scheduled.




    Final Approval of Required Plans:​

    The Notice of Final Approval will appear on the primary AFO webpage for at least the 15-day period during which a person aggrieved by the Department's final approval may request a  contested case hearing.  AFOs will not be registered until the end of the public process, which includes the determination of a contested case hearing, if requested.​​


    Basic Information about the AFO Program:​

    Maryland’s regulations for AFOs​​​ became effective January 12, 2009. The first Maryland General Discharge Permit for AFOs (09AF, MDG01​), applicable to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and Maryland Animal Feeding Operations (MAFOs), became effective December 1, 2009 and expired on November 30, 2014. This general permit was renewed effective December 1, 2014 as GD Permit 14AF, MDG01, was modified (GD Permit 14AFA, MDG01A) effective August 1, 2016, and expired on November 30, 2019. The current permit (GD Permit 19AF, MDG01​) became effective July 8, 2020 and will expire on July 7, 2025.

    If you are a CAFO or MAFO, you must apply for coverage under the GD Permit in order to legally operate your facility. For more information about whether or not you are an AFO and require a Discharge Permit, please reference the "Guidance" section under the quick links. 


    Documents Needed to Apply for Coverage: 

    Once you have determined that you are a CAFO or a MAFO, you must submit to MDE a NOI Form. CAFOs and MAFOs are also required to submit a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) that is developed in accordance with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) technical standards. The required plan(s) must comply with the requirements in COMAR and federal regulations in 40 CFR 122.42(e). To apply for assistance in obtaining a CNMP, contact your local NRCS office. Assistance with NMPs or Conservation Plans can be obtained from your district office.

    If you are a corporation, in order to obtain coverage under the GD Permit, you must be registered and in good standing with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT). The business or entity’s information provided in the NOI must match the information in the SDA​T r​egister​​.​


    When to Submit a NOI and Required Plan to the Department:

    The following information will provide guidance to AFOs on the documents that must be submitted to the Department to initiate or continue the registration under the modified GD Permit.
    ​Status​​ ​Guidance
    Not RegisteredSubmit NOI as soon as possible, followed by required plan(s)
    ​Registered under Previous GD Permit​Submit NOI as soon as possible, followed by any updates to required plan(s) requested by MDE
    ​Modification of Existing Operation​Submit NOI as soon as possible, followed by updated required plan(s) that reflects modification (prior to modification)
    ​Change of Ownership under CURRENT GD PermitIf new owner plans to operate exactly the same, submit a transfer form with NOI and signed required plan(s)
    ​Change of Ownership under PREVIOUS GD Permit​New owner must submit a NOI, followed by required plan(s) prior to receiving birds
    ​New Poultry Construction / Expansion​Submit NOI, followed by required plan(s) prior to beginning construction
    All NOIs and required plan​s must be submitted to:


    ​Maryland Department of the Environment
    Land and Materials Administration
    1800 Washington Blvd., Suite 610
    Baltimore, MD 21230-1719


    Guidance in the Determinatio​n of AFO No-Land/Land Status: 

    The Department has published guidance to AFOs to assist them in completing their GD permit applications regarding whether they are a no-land or a land operation. No-land operations only grow animals and export their manure to another farm not under the control of the AFO owner or operator. Land operations grow both animals and crops, where the land application area where manure is applied is under the control of the AFO owner or operator, regardless of whether the manure is generated by the AFO operation or imported from another source. In making this determination, the AFO must verify whether the AFO owner or operator is in control of the land application area. The business structure of the AFO or the crop operation does not necessarily affect the no-land/land determination. This guidance can be found by clicking here​.​​


    ​Financial Assistance: 

    Funding for best management practices (BMPs) to address resource management issues and to help farmers meet the new CAFO/MAFO requirements is available through both State and federal funding sources. State funding is available through the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost Share Program (MACS) funded primarily by State water quality bonds.  Local Soil Conservation Districts can provide the most current information about fund availability and assist with the required applications and related paperwork.​ To start the process, contact your soil conservation district and they will guide you to the appropriate funding source.


    Other AFO News and Information:​​

    Click ​​on the links below for additional information​

    A. Maryland Court of Appeals Uphold CAFO/MAFO Permit


    Maryland's General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations (General Discharge Permit 09AF, MDG01) has been upheld as a valid general permit by the Maryland courts. This removes uncertainty for AFOs that the GD Permit is legally sufficient. All AFOs that meet the requirements for needing coverage under the GD Permit should submit an NOI and the required plans, if they have not already done so. See Letter I (below) for more information on the history of the GD Permit. This GD Permit was renewed on December 1, 2014.

    B. CAFO/MAFO Annual Reports are Due on March 1st of Every Year


    All concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that are registered under the "General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations" are required to submit their CAFO/MAFO Annual Implementation Reports (AIR) by March 1st of every year covering the previous calendar year.

    For the last several years, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) have consolidated their respective annual reports for AFOs. Applicable livestock and poultry farmers will receive one consolidated AIR Form from MDA. Once completed, this AIR Form should be mailed back to MDA, who will, in turn, forward the AFO AIRs to MDE.

    If your operation is required to submit an AFO annual report and you have not received it, please contact your local MDA field office. These forms and instructions are also available on the MDA website, Follow the "Nutrient Management" link.

    C. MDE Provides Catastrophic Poultry Mortality Guidance


    MDE has developed guidance on how to handle catastrophic poultry mortalities here. This document provides a summary of the regulations and practices to be used in cases where a large number of chickens have died due to excessive heat, fires, or disease. Mortalities must be composted in facilities designed for that purpose. If these cannot accommodate a catastrophic mortality, MDE must be notified and give permission to compost in other areas, such as in poultry houses or manure sheds.

    D. MDE Adds Approved Alternatives to the 100-foot Setback Standards for CAFOs and MAFOs


    MDE has established new "approved alternatives" to the 100-foot setback standards required of CAFOs and MAFOs. As required under Maryland's AFO regulations and permit, MDE consulted with the MDA, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and the University of Maryland Extension in their deliberations in establishing these approved alternatives. The alternatives will give CAFOs and MAFOs additional practices to use during the development of a farm's comprehensive nutrient management plan or nutrient management plan for application of manure. The "Setb​ack Requirements and Approved Alternatives"​ document describes these alternatives.

    E. Information on Animal Farm Reporting of Ammonia and Hydrogen Sulfide Releases

    Federal legislation was passed on March 23, 2018 exempting farms from CERCLA reporting requirements. Title XI of Division S of the Omnibus Bill, known as the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act (FARM Act), amended CERCLA section 103(e) to exempt air emissions from animal waste at a farm from reporting under CERCLA.​ On November 14, 2018, EPA published a proposed rule to amend the emergency release notification regulations under EPCRA. This amendment proposes to add a reporting exemption for air emissions from animal waste at farms.​ For more information on CERCLA and EPCRA reporting requirements, click here​.

    F. Maryland Department of Agriculture's Pesticide Container Recycling Program


    Click here for the 2019 Maryland Department of Agriculture's Pesticide Container Recycling Program

    G. GD Permit Determinations

    • 14AF/MDG01 Tentative Determination Click Here
    • 14AF/MDG01 Final Determination Click Here
    • 14AFA/MDG01A Tentative Determination for Modification Click Here​

    H. Modification of GD Permit


    The renewed GD Permit that became effective on December 1, 2014 was recently modified pursuant to the Department, Food & Water Watch, and the Assateague Coastal Trust's Consent Order and to clarify two other provisions of the GD Permit not subject ​to the Consent Order. These modifications were published as a Tentative Determination in the Salisbury Daily Times on March​ 3 and 10, 2016, the Queen Anne's Record Observer on March 4 and 11, 2016, and the Frederick News-Post on March 1 and 8, 2016. No comments were received and in accordance with COMAR A(1) the Tentative Determination became a Final Determination on April 4, 2016.

    The GD Permit was modified as follows:

    1. Part IV.A.6(b)(4)(ii) and Part IV.A.7(a)(5)(ii): Animal waste storage and storm water routing structure inspection requirement (pp. 13 and 14) - This requirement was modified from “Once every three months for dry animal waste operations” to “Weekly for dry animal waste operations” under each section.

      This modification is the same as the original permit (09AF) requirement with regard to dry animal waste inspections to ensure consistency with 40 CFR Part 412.37(a)(1)(iii). This modification also provides consistency with the Effluent Limitations Guideline (“ELG”) under 40 CFR Part 412.45 and 40 CFR Part 412.46 that requires zero discharge from production areas of poultry CAFOs. The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load Watershed Implementation Plan supports this ELG by requiring zero discharge from CAFOs. More frequent inspections of dry manure storage structures would discover any problems early enough to prevent any unauthorized discharge to surface waters of the State.

      The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (“ Bay TMDL”) describes CAFO loads as being “discharges from parts of the production area at some CAFOs or other discharges from CAFOs not covered by the “no discharge” standard; e.g., precipitation-based discharges that come in contact with dust, dander, feathers, and/or manure on the ground between the buildings or in ventilation systems.” The document goes on to state that, “[t]he nutrient and sediment controls, or Best Management Practices (“BMPs”), in the permit are the effluent limits of the permit. Therefore, it is required that the permittee be in compliance with implementing nutrient and sediment controls, which are consistent with the assumptions of the Bay TMDL”. The Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan (“WIP”) specifies a variety of practices that are required for CAFOs handling animal waste such as: streamside grass buffers; mortality composting; heavy use livestock area pads on farms that have been determined to have severe erosion and existing or the potential for water quality issues; 100 foot or 35 foot required setbacks for CAFO manure application; manure transport; poultry litter storage structures; livestock waste storage structures; and barnyard runoff control systems. Since these practices are specified in the GD Permit, the effluent limits in the permit would be consistent with the Bay TMDL.
    1. Change the definition: S. “Required Plan(s)” (Page 6) - to – "means those plans that CAFO and MAFO applicants are required to submit to the Department pursuant to COMAR and the federal regulations in 40 CFR 122.42(e). These plans include, but are not limited to, CNMPs or NMPs and Conservation plans. To obtain coverage under the GD Permit, and maintain compliance thereunder, all portions of the required plan must be current or unexpired at the time of NOI submission, and remain current or unexpired throughout the duration of GD Permit coverage."
      This modification ensures GD Permit consistency with State and federal regulations with regard to need for and implementation of a current or unexpired required plan. This modification also clarifies the requirement that both CAFOs and MAFOs must submit either a current or unexpired CNMP or a combination of a current or unexpired NMP and Conservation Plan with the NOI to satisfy the application requirements for the GD Permit.
    2. Switch the numbering of two provisions in Part VII of the GD Permit (Pages 26 and 27): Section O, “Permit Renewal” with Section P, “Continuation of an Expired General Discharge Permit”. This modification will eliminate the possibility of any confusion by placing these provisions in sequential order. EPA approved these modifications on April 19, 2016. The modified permit has have the federal NPDES number MDG01A and the State discharge permit number 14AFA. The modified permit can be found here. The modification is effective on August 1, 2016 and expires on November 30, 2019.

    I. History of the Development of the Regulations

    *NOTE: The following documents are archival in nature and should not be viewed as current requirements.

    MDE issued its final determination to issue a GD Permit for AFOs on January 2, 2009; however, issuance of the GD Permit was delayed by a legal challenge. On May 5, 2009, the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings issued a Proposed Decision upholding the permit against this legal challenge, and Petitioners Assateague Coastkeeper, Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, C. & B. Schelts, & Waterkeeper Alliance filed exceptions to that ruling. On September 2, 2009, following further briefing and oral argument, MDE issued the Final Decision, holding that the Petitioners have not placed any material fact in dispute and that the proposed GD Permit conforms to federal and State law. The issuance of this Final Decision allows MDE to issue the GD Permit and to place applicable facilities under the new requirements designed to protect the waters of the State. The Petitioners filed an appeal of the Final Decision in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on October 2, 2009. In the absence of a court-issued stay of the Final Decision, MDE and MDA agreed that it was in the best interest of Maryland's waterways, facilities subject to Maryland’s AFO requirements, and all Marylanders for MDE to issue the permit, effective December 1, 2009. This allowed existing AFOs and those wishing to construct new AFOs to implement the necessary environmental controls under the clear and consistent guidelines provided by the GD Permit.
    The Assateague Coastkeepers, Waterkeeper Alliance and the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper argued that the GD Permit was deficient because it was not as stringent as federal law. MDE argued that the GD Permit was at least as stringent as federal law, and in fact, more stringent in that it requires MAFOs to seek permit coverage. The Office of Administrative Hearings, the MDE Final Decision Maker, and the Circuit Court of Baltimore City all held that the GD Permit was valid.
    On September 6, 2011, the Court of Special Appeals (CSA) agreed with MDE and the lower decisions and held that the GD Permit was at least as stringent as federal law. The CSA held that certain challenged provisions of the GD Permit were based on substantial evidence considered by the Department from various sources including the EPA, University of Maryland Scientist, the Wye Research and Education Center, and scientists at the Chesapeake Research Consortium. The Court also agreed with MDE that the GD Permit would not cause or contribute to violations of water quality standards because the GD Permit, which regulates a previously unregulated community, will result in a net reduction in pollution.
    On January 23, 2012, the Court of Appeals of Maryland denied the Petitioners request for review of the CSA ruling; thereby, making the CSA decision final. Maryland’s General Discharge Permit for Animal Feeding Operations (09AF, MDG01) has been upheld as a valid general permit by the Maryland courts. This removes uncertainty for AFOs that the GD Permit is legally sufficient.


    ​​Contact Inf​​​o

    For additional information or questions, contact the Animal Feeding Operations Division by email or phone at 410-537-3314.​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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