Livestock producers need to plan now to meet two key compliance dates for confined livestock operations next year.

Both deadlines result from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's update on rules dealing with concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs. The rules deal mainly with how manure is managed to protect water quality. They place more of an emphasis on proper management of animal manure at the confinement site where it is produced and on farmland where it is applied.

By Feb. 13, 2006, all large CAFOs must apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, notes Rick Koelsch, livestock bioenvironmental engineer in the University of Nebraska's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. That includes large CAFOs that already have a current state operator's permit.

"Under the updated rules, animals housed under a roof and those in open lots are potentially CAFOs," says Koelsch. "Many poultry, dairy and swine facilities where animals are housed in barns will now need this federal permit, where historically it was applied only to outdoor feedlots."

For swine, operations with one-time capacity of 2,500 animals weighing more than 55 pounds, are automatically considered large CAFOs. For other species it breaks out as: 1,000 beef cattle, 700 dairy cattle, 55,000 turkeys or 125,000 broilers Some medium-sized animal feeding operations with fewer animals may need a permit if there is a direct connection between the animal housing and surface water.

Another key compliance date is Dec. 31, 2006. By then, all large CAFOs will need a fully implemented nutrient-management plan for the farming operation. These management plans address how the nutrients in manure are stored and used to fertilize crops to prevent water pollution.

"The environmental regulatory community is serious about industry compliance with these regulations," says Koelsch. "That's why it's important to begin complying with these rules immediately."

While the deadlines seem far off, applying for the federal permit and bringing production facilities up to required standards can take at least a year.

"I would anticipate we will see some examples made of producers who don't meet the deadlines," he notes. "That's why it's important to use the available resources to apply for permits and comply with these environmental regulations."

The University of Nebraska, and other land-grant universities in general, are providing information about nutrient planning and CAFOs, including definitions of small, medium and large CAFOs. For example, you can go to http://cnmp.unl.edu/ for more information. The Web site includes software tools for preparing nutrient-management plans, including Nebraska's Manure Use Plan; sample forms for required records; and nutrient-management planning workshop opportunities.

The site also includes a Calibration and Manure Sampling Kit, of which 15 are available for loan to livestock and poultry producers. For more information, visit http://cnmp.unl.edu/calibrationkits.html.

Many states are holding related informational meetings, and it's wise for producers to check out the specifics for their state, In Nebraska's case, the state Department of Environmental Quality will hold series of meetings in March to discuss CAFO requirements and how to comply. For more information about similar meetings contact your local Cooperative Extension office. For Nebraskans visit http://www.deq.sate.ne.us/.

Additional resources to help all producers include:

  • CAFO Fact Sheets, developed by a team of land-grant university and Natural Resource Conservation Service representatives. The CAFO fact sheets can be found at  http://cnmp.unl.edu/cafofactsheets.html
  • Livestock and Poultry Environmental Stewardship curriculum, a national producer-targeted review of environmental management options for animal producers, which Koelsch helped develop, is at http://www.lpes.org/