Legislation and Regulation Regarding Factory Farming

Recent legislation

Local regulations regarding factory farms vary widely.  In some cases, county zoning changes or other approvals may be needed before a CAFO can be constructed.  Some counties have taken action to place buffer zones prohibiting CAFOs near residential areas, historic sites, parks or other public amenities.  Recently, several states have considered legislation regarding CAFOs.  Some bills would make it harder for local jurisdictions to regulate CAFOs, while others are calling for moratoriums.  Recent state legislative activity includes: 

  • In California, proposed legislation that would have created a buffer zone around Allensworth State Historic Park has been superseded by a compromise agreement between the State and a landowner intent on building a CAFO adjacent to the Park boundary. The State has agreed to pay the applicant $3.5 million to keep any captive livestock at least two miles from the site.  Founded by former slave and Civil War Naval Officer Allen Allensworth, the historic town is testament to the achievements and contributions of African Americans to the history and development of California.
  • In Missouri, a bill that would have rescinded county health ordinances regulating CAFOs died in the state senate.  Opponents raised concerns that the bill would usurp local entities' ability to regulate CAFOs within their jurisdictions.  Legislative efforts to create a five-mile buffer zone around state parks and historic sites were also unsuccessful.  Last year's Cole County ruling that prevents DNR from issuing CAFO permits within 15 miles of a State Park or State Historic Site is a victory for preservationists and rural advocates, but has been appealed by the DNR.
  • In Indiana, legislation that would require CAFO operators to be financially responsible for clean-up costs resulting from problems at their facilities died in committee, as did a bill that would have imposed a three year statewide moratorium on new CAFO construction.  For more information, contact the Hoosier Environmental Council and the Indiana CAFO Watch.  
  • Five years after the passage of a controversial state law which shifted state oversight over factory farms from the Ohio EPA to the Department of Agriculture, some Ohio lawmakers are looking to beef up the law by imposing a moratorium on all new factory farms until more stringent new rules are adopted. The bill is currently stalled the Senate Agriculture Committee.  Visit the Ohio Environmental Council for more information.
  • In Oklahoma, a bill was proposed that would have removed the three-mile buffer zone that currently separates massive factory hog farms from Oklahoma's state parks and historic sites. This bill died in committee.

Federal regulatory protections

Many factory farms require a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act.  NPDES permits are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  However, the Clean Water Act allows the EPA to delegate its federal NPDES permitting authority to the states.  In states that have received this delegated authority, NPDES permitting DOES NOT trigger the need for compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.  There are a handful of states where the EPA still retains its authority to grant NPDES permits for CAFOs.  In these few states, the EPA is required to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.  A chart showing which states have received delegated authority for NPDES permitting may be found on the EPA's website.

In addition to NPDES permits, there are other federal actions related to CAFOs that may require review.  For example, some CAFO owners have applied for funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which constitutes a federal undertaking that requires compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act.  The Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP) is one of the programs most frequently used to mitigate the impacts of CAFO construction.  Other USDA funding programs include loans and grants through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

For more information or assistance, please contact your National Trust Regional Office.