ADEM Supports Changes to AFO/CAFO Regulations
By Caleb Hicks
The Alabama Environmental Management Commission, which oversees the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, or ADEM, met in December and passed changes to the regulations that govern animal feeding operations, or AFOs, and concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.
The rule changes allow CAFO owners to either continue to obtain permit coverage under the existing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES, permit or to obtain permit coverage under a new non-NPDES state permit.
CAFO owners who choose to obtain permit coverage under the new state permit will be required to have a QCP inspection and register at the local Alabama Soil and Water Conservation office once every five years, while CAFO owners who continue to obtain permit coverage under the existing NPDES permit will continue with their annual QCP inspection and annual registration.
A mandatory five-year review of the existing AFO/CAFO regulations was performed in the early part of 2020 and provided interested parties an opportunity to submit comments on the effectiveness of the regulations. The proposed changes to the regulations were then the subject of an additional public notice, 45-day comment period and public hearing. The public notice was published in September and ADEM entertained public comments until the public hearing in November.
ADEM Field Operations Division Chief Scott Hughes said the move is positive for environmental aspects.
“We are pleased that these updated rules have been passed and are now going into effect,” Hughes said. “We are confident that this change gives our department better control over the inspection process and a better regulatory structure for the protection of water quality throughout Alabama.”
The original AFO/CAFO rule went into effect in 1999 after years of development by farmers and agricultural and environmental organizations and agencies in Alabama.
Hughes said approximately 1,000 CAFOs are currently registered in Alabama, and all are required to reregister in 2021. During this transition year, registrants who choose coverage under the state permit will receive either a two-, three-, four- or five-year permit duration based on a lottery system. After those permits expire, all CAFOs that operate under the new state permit will receive permits with a five-year duration.
ADEM will communicate with CAFO owners to inform them of when they are due for a reregistration.
Alabama Poultry and Egg Association’s Ray Hilburn applauded the regulation change and echoed Hughes.
“ADEM has been extremely cooperative to work with throughout the years since the AFO/CAFO rule began in ’99,” said Hilburn, APEA associate director. “The changes to the regulations will not only be beneficial to poultry farmers, but also to the environment, and will also allow ADEM inspectors to spend more time in the field with growers at their farms educating them on environmental issues.
“We appreciate ADEM recognizing that a majority of our poultry farmers are great stewards of the land.”
For more information on the updated rules, visit http://adem.alabama.gov/programs/water/cafo.cnt.