The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), Division of Water Pollution Control, defines an "Animal Feeding Operation" (AFO) as a facility that (1) stables, confines, and feeds or maintains animals (other than aquatic animals) for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period, and (2) does not sustain crops, vegetation, forage growth, or post-harvest residues in the normal growing season over any portion of the facility.
CAFOs are large-scale animal production facilities where many animals are raised or maintained, where feed is brought to the animals, and where wastes accumulate in a small area. An operation MUST be defined as an "Animal Feeding Operation" (AFO) before it can be defined as a CAFO. Once a facility meets the AFO definition, if its size meets or exceeds the size thresholds in Column I of the following table, it is considered a large CAFO. If an AFO has animal numbers within a range given in Column II, it has the potential to be considered a medium CAFO if any one of the following conditions is met:
|Animal Type||Large CAFO||Medium CAFO|
|Dairy Cows||700 +||200 - 699|
|Cattle||1,000 +||300 - 999|
|Swine||2,500 + (> 55 lbs)||750 - 2,499 (> 55 lbs)|
|10,000 + (< 55 lbs)||3,000 - 9,999 (< 55 lbs)|
|Chickens (liquid)||30,000 +||9,000 - 29,999|
|Chickens (dry)||125,000 + (non-layers)||37,500 - 124,999 (non-layers)|
|82,000 + (layers)||25,000 - 81,999 (layers)|
|Horses||500 +||150 - 499|
|Sheep/lambs||10,000 +||3,000 - 9,999|
|Turkeys||55,000 +||16,400 - 54,999|
|Ducks||5,000 + (liquid waste management)||1,500 - 4,999 (liquid waste management)|
|30,000 + (dry waste management)||10,000 - 29,999 (dry waste management)|
Keep in mind that any facility, regardless of size, can be designated as a CAFO by TDEC or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on a case-by-case basis if it is determined that the facility is a significant contributor of pollution to the waters of the United States.
Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) confine large numbers of animals in relatively small areas. If the resulting waste is mismanaged, it can contribute to land, air, and water quality problems.
"Waters" means any and all water, public or private, on or beneath the surface of the ground, which are contained within, flow through, or border upon Tennessee or any portion thereof except those bodies of water confined to and retained within the limits of private property in single ownership which do not combine or effect a junction with natural or underground waters. In other words, if it flows onto or off of your property, or flows beneath your property, it is considered waters of the state. An example of a water body that is NOT considered waters of the state would be a small stock pond, located completely within your property, with no connection to groundwater.
Any facility that is defined or designated as a medium or large concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) is subject to permitting in the State of Tennessee. The type of operation you have will determine the type of permit you need.
If you need assistance determining if your operation requires a permit, and which permit is appropriate, contact Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) - Division of Water Resources at (615) 253-2245, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) - CAFO Program at (615) 837-5306, your local United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office, or the nearest University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service office.
The link below is a TDEC page that reviews who needs a permit, and what type: http://www.tn.gov/environment/permits/cafo.shtml
Information specific to NPDES permitting in Tennessee can be found at: http://tennessee.gov/environment/permits/npdes.shtml
The University of Tennessee has also developed factsheets that may be helpful in determining if your operation requires a CAFO permit, and includes examples of documents needed for a CAFO permit application: https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/Pages/cafo.aspx
Put simply, it's the law. If your operation meets the criteria of a medium or large CAFO, you are required by state and/or federal law to acquire an appropriate permit. Operations that fail to obtain a permit as required are subject to enforcement actions by TDEC and possibly the EPA. Fines as high as $2,500 for the first offense can be levied against you for operating without a permit. Federal fines can be as high as $37,500 per violation, per day.
Another benefit to getting a CAFO permit is that by taking the time and effort to obtain a permit, you are showing your commitment to natural resources stewardship and responsible land management. Being permitted indicates you are making a strong effort to operate responsibly, and regulatory/enforcement agencies generally acknowledge and appreciate that. A permit is a strong witness on your behalf should you ever have, or cause, a water quality issue.
A third good reason for obtaining a CAFO permit, is that the process of meeting permit requirements is designed to make you a better manager, and thereby prevent problems from arising.
All CAFOs apply to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) for permit coverage. The address is listed below:
Tennessee Dept. of Agriculture
Ellington Agricultural Center
424 Hogan Road
Nashville, Tennessee 37220
Telephone Number: (615) 837-5306
The CAFO permit application requires the following items:
All CAFOs are required to develop, submit for state approval, implement, and keep on site a site-specific Nutrient Management Plan (NMP). Information on site -specific nutrient management plans can be found at: https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/PB1635.pdf
A Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) is required for operations that wish to participate in cost-share or loan programs through United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The CNMP must be prepared by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff, or a certified Technical Service Provider (TSP). A CNMP will fulfill the requirements of the NMP described above. Information on CNMPs can be found at: https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W086.pdf
Note: For those applying for a General State Operating Permit (SOPC or SOPCD), we highly recommend the use of a cheklist to verify that all the required elements for an MNP have been addressed. Please see the link to the checklists below:
Assistance is available from two primary sources:
Both of these sources have personnel trained and resources designed to aid your nutrient and liquid waste planning process. For Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMP) or complex NMPs, a certified Technical Service Provider (TSP) may be needed. NRCS will be able to direct you to a certified TSP.
Assistance can also be obtained by contacting Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) or Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) directly.
Note: If you are a poultry producer that exports (sells or gives away) all your litter, TDA has developed a poultry worksheet. (This worksheet is only applicable to 100% export operations, meaning that if you do not apply any litter to land.) Completing this worksheet will fulfill the requirements of an NMP for CAFO permitting. (At this time, the worksheet will not meet the requirements of a CNMP as required for FSA loans.) Please remember to include the other required items (e.g. Notice of Intent, Declarations to Nutrient Management Plan, Maps: ortho and topo).
All CAFO permits in Tennessee are issued by Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). However, all nutrient management plans are reviewed and must be approved by Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA). TDA works with producers to achieve plans that meet all requirements of the permit. Once approved, the plans are forwarded to TDEC and the permits are issued.
All monitoring, investigating, and, if necessary, levying of fines or other penalties is the responsibility of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).
Operations that obtain a General State Operating Permit (SOPC or SOPCD) do not have any application fees or Annual Maintenance Fees.
Operations that obtain an National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit or the Individual State Operation Permits (SOPs) do not have an application fees, but they do require an Annual Maintenance Fee of $350 per year.
General State Operating Permits (SOPC/SOPCD) are valid for five years from the effective date of the permit. This can be confusing, because the date you receive your Notice of Coverage (NOC) under the SOPC or SOPCD is NOT the effective date of the permit. The current SOPC became effective on June 1, 2010, and will expire on May 31, 2015. This means that all SOPC NOCs expire on May 31, 2015 whether you received them today or a year from now. The SOPCD permit became effective on November 1, 2010, and the coverage will expire on October 31, 2015.
Individual permits, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and the Individual State Operating Permit (SOP) expire five years from the date of issuance stated on the permit.
You can report suspected cases of animal feeding operations (AFOs) and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) noncompliance to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) at (888) 891-8332. TDEC is responsible for performing investigations, determining if an operation is operating out of compliance, and pursuing enforcement actions (when appropriate). Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) has no regulatory authority to initiate enforcement actions against an operation or its owner; however, TDA will assist TDEC when requested, and attempt to help small AFO operators (non-CAFOs) with regulatory compliance support.
Citizen Water Quality Complaints Website: