Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



concentrated animal feeding operations, nutrient pollution, agricultural stormwater, Chesapeake Bay, enforcement, designation authority, manure management, Clean Water Act, accountability


This report provides a substantive and detailed look at the concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) and other animal feeding operations (AFO) programs in Maryland and Pennsylvania, as well as a general overview of the federal CAFO program. The information in this report was gathered through publicly available resources as well as a series of interviews with agency officials and other individuals who work with the animal agricultural sector. This report identifies concrete and practical recommendations for improving how the waste generated by animal industrial agriculture is managed and controlled by EPA, the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE), and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The report provides general recommendations that apply to each of these agencies and specific and distinct recommendations applicable to these three agencies that are primarily charged with protecting human health and the environment, along with recommendations for state agricultural agencies that also manage manure and AFOs. Most of these recommendations require no legislative action and could be implemented by the agencies under their existing authorities.

In the United States, the romantic image of the Jeffersonian farmer tending the field has long given way to industrial production of food. Nowhere is this more evident than in the animal agriculture sector, where the decline of the family farm and the subsequent rise of large-scale animal operations and the manure they generate have been dramatic. In the badly impaired Chesapeake Bay watershed, animal manure contributes around 19 percent of the total nitrogen and 26 percent of the total phosphorus to the Bay, or 53 million pounds and 5 million pounds, respectively. Manure also contains an unappetizing slurry of pathogens, antibiotics, and other pollutants such as cleaning fluids, heavy metals, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides. In the United States, EPA estimates that the largest of these concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) generate three times the amount of waste generated by humans annually. Unlike human waste, which is subject to extensive biological and chemical treatment, animal waste is most frequently spread onto land without treatment.

Congress specifically identified the CAFO sector as a source of pollution to be regulated decades ago, but only in the past few years has EPA focused on these massive operations and the pollution they cause. States across the country have been slow to embrace these programs. Not surprisingly, the states that most urgently needed to implement regulations were the ones most dominated by agricultural interests. In most states, CAFO programs are only now starting to implement minimum federal standards.

Publication Citation

Center for Progressive Reform Briefing Paper no. 1206


Agriculture Law | Environmental Law