On May 4, 2015, Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced a change to its Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) discharge permits in an effort to better protect the environment and Michigan's surface waters from agricultural runoff. The change in permits now forbids CAFOs to transfer farm waste to other operations between January and March unless the recipient of waste also follows the winter spreading technical standard.

The DEQ enacted the change after several recent incidents occurred where the spreading of manure from CAFOs during winter months negatively impacted drains, creeks, and rivers during the spring thaw.

The DEQ anticipates this change, which is part of Michigan's overall efforts to reduce phosphorus and nutrient loading into its surface waters, will further curtail incidents of farm runoff during the spring thaw and believes the new requirements will safeguard Michigan's water resources, all while providing farmers with a reasonable regulatory framework in which to operate.

This article was written by Erin Buerger, a summer associate at Varnum in 2015. Erin is currently a student at Indiana University Maurer School of Law