The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulates how, when and where Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) may spread manure. The permitting process authorized under the federal Clean Water Act, and administered by the DEQ, is intended to ensure that large farms avoid damaging the environment through agricultural runoff.
On May 4, 2015, DEQ announced a CAFO permit change intended to further limit the environmental impact of large farms. Under current regulations, CAFOs are not permitted to spread manure on frozen or snow-covered grounds except under very strict, limited circumstances. However, CAFOs previously could transfer excess manure to other operations not prohibited from winter spreading.
The change to the permit rules prevents CAFOs from transferring manure to other operations from January to March unless the recipient of the manure follows the winter spreading technical standard. In other words, the recipient farm (in most cases a smaller farm) must follow the same technical spreading standards that the large farm would have had to follow.
According to the DEQ, the change was made in reaction “to several incidents during the past few winters where waste from CAFO operations was transferred to other operations, which spread the material on their lands for fertilizer and subsequently impacted drains, creeks and rivers during the spring thaw.”