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What You Must Do – Ohio LEAP

What You Must Do

The majority of Ohio livestock and poultry farmers make it a priority to hold themselves to the highest environmental standards. In addition to voluntary measures, Ohio’s livestock and poultry farmers are required to follow state and federal regulations to ensure the largest operations follow science-based guidelines that protect the environment while allowing the facility to be productive.

Who Regulates Ohio Livestock Farms

Ohio farmers are regulated in many different ways – from federal regulations to state and local laws.

Regulators include the federal government, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, as well as local municipalities.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency

Division of Surface Water

The Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water ensures compliance with the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). The Division also works to increase the number of waterways, streams and lakes that can safely be used for swimming and fishing.

The Division of Surface Water administers three main permit programs for the protection of Ohio’s water resources:

  • National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
  • Construction Stormwater Permits
  • Permit to Install Program
  • 401 Certification & Isolated Wetland Program

Discharge Permit

All livestock operations, regardless of size, that discharge wastewater into Ohio’s waters must first obtain a discharge permit from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA). The discharge permit requirements in Ohio are based on federal regulations and are called National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements.

Any knowing violation of certain CWA requirements is punishable by a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $50,000 per day of violation and/or by imprisonment not to exceed three years. Specific fines can be viewed on the EPA website.

Livestock feedlots are specifically noted in the federal regulations. Feedlot operators are required to obtain an NPDES permit from Ohio EPA if storm water runoff from the lot discharges to the waters of the state.

NPDES Stormwater Construction Permit

If during the construction of a livestock or poultry facility one or more acres will be cleared, graded and/or excavated, an NPDES stormwater construction permit must be obtained from the Ohio EPA before commencing construction of the facility. This is also required for the disturbance of one or more acres for the construction of any facility or building, regardless of its use or purpose, such as residential, commercial, machinery storage, parking lot, grain bins, etc.

Sanitary/Sewage Permit

Installation of sewage treatment or disposal systems, such as employee restroom wastewater, is regulated by the Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water. A permit to install needs to be obtained prior to beginning construction of the sewage treatment or disposal system.

Ohio Department of Agriculture

National Pollution Discharge Elimination System Permit

In addition, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (US EPA) rules for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) require that such farms apply for a federal National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, submit an annual report, and develop and follow a plan for handling, storing and applying animal manure and wastewater.

To be considered a CAFO, a livestock, dairy or poultry farm must first meet the definition of an animal feeding operation (AFO), which is defined as a facility that confines animals for at least 45 days in a 12-month period and there is no grass or other vegetation in the confinement area during the normal growing season. An operation is a CAFO if it meets the definition of an AFO and meets one of the following CAFO definitions:

Large CAFO – An operation is a large CAFO if it has at least:

  • 700 mature dairy cows,
  • 1,000 beef cattle or heifers,
  • 2,500 swine weighing more than 55 pounds ,
  • 10,000 swine weighing less than 55 pounds,
  • 30,000 ducks (other than liquid manure systems),
  • 5,000 ducks (liquid manure handling systems).
  • 30,000 chickens (liquid manure handling systems),
  • 125,000 chickens except layers (other than a liquid manure system),
  • 82,000 laying hens (other than liquid manure systems),
  • 1,000 veal calves,
  • 500 horses,
  • 10,000 sheep or lambs, or
  • 55,000 turkeys.

Medium CAFO – An operation is a medium CAFO if a man-made ditch or pipe carries manure or wastewater from your operation to surface water, or your animals come into contact with surface water running through the area where they’re confined, and the operation has at least:

  • 200 mature dairy cows,
  • 300 beef cattle or heifers,
  • 750 swine weighing more than 55 pounds,
  • 3,000 swine weighing less than 55 pounds,
  • 10,000 ducks (other than liquid manure handling systems),
  • 1,500 ducks (liquid manure handling system),
  • 9,000 chickens (liquid manure handling system),
  • 37,500 chickens except layers (other than liquid manure handling systems),
  • 25,000 layers (other than liquid manure handling systems),
  • 300 veal calves,
  • 150 horses,
  • 3,000 sheep or lambs, or
  • 16,500 turkeys.

No matter the size of a livestock, dairy or poultry facility, if it is an AFO, it may be designated a CAFO if, after being inspected by a permitting authority, it is found to be adding pollutants to surface waters. It is also important to note that the US EPA permit will cover both the production area and the land application areas.

For additional information about these rules, please refer to the US EPA’s website.

Division of Soil and Water Conservation

In January 2016, the Division of Soil and Water Conservation (DSWC) was established through a transfer of programs from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.


  • Provides administrative guidance, training and program development to support Ohio’s 88 SWCDs.
  • Implements agricultural and non-point source water pollution control programs. A regulatory component enforces agricultural sediment and livestock manure.
  • Supports and helps fund local development of watershed management and protection action plans.
  • Implements a comprehensive statewide soils information program.

Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting

Program staff are responsible for regulating how Ohio’s largest livestock and poultry farms handle manure and waste water, as well as manage flies, rodents and other pests.

All livestock facilities that meet the definition of a large CAFO must apply to the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) for a permit to install (PTI) and permit to operate (PTO) prior to constructing new or expanded waste treatment, storage or disposal facilities even if they do not plan to discharge pollutants into a stream.

Livestock facilities that meet the size requirement for a medium CAFO or smaller and that have no stream discharge or animals coming into contact with surface waters in the production area, do not need to apply for an NPDES permit from the Ohio EPA, or a Permit to Install and Permit to Operate from the ODA. However, they are subject to regulation under the Ohio Department of Agriculture/Division of Soil & Water Conservation, local soil and water conservation districts (SWCD) and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources/Division of Wildlife.

Regardless of the size of the livestock operation, no facility may pollute the waters of the state. Click here for application set back distances per OAC 901: 10-2-14.

Ohio Agricultural Pollution Abatement Program

The Agricultural Pollution Abatement Program (APAP) is administered by ODA-Division of Soil and Water Conservation and implemented locally by all 88 Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

The Agricultural Pollution Abatement Rules, 901:13-1 of the Ohio Administrative Code, apply to the control of pollutants from areas within the state used for agricultural production. These rules establish state standards for a level of management and conservation practices in farming and animal feeding operations on farms in order to abate excessive soil erosion or the pollution of waters of the state by soil sediment and animal manure.

Watersheds in Distress

In 2010, new rules were added to help address manure nutrient management challenges and restrict winter manure application in Ohio watersheds designated as distressed. These changes include:

  • Language that allows the Division, in coordination with the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission to designate areas, like the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed, as a watershed in distress.
  • Restrictions on land application of manure between December 15 and March 1, or when ground is frozen outside those dates.
  • Requirements for farms generating or utilizing more than 350 tons and/or 100,000 gallons of manure annually to have an approved nutrient management plan.

For more information, visit the ODA Division of Soil and Water Conservation.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources – Division of Wildlife

The task of protecting the wild animals of the state is the responsibility of the Division of Wildlife. Anyone found to be discharging pollutants into Ohio’s waters can be found in violation of the “Stream Litter Act” which carries penalties of a third-degree misdemeanor for a first offense. Violators can be fined up to $500 or sentenced to sixty days in jail, or both, for a first offense. Corporations can be fined up to $3,000 for a first offense and $5,000 for subsequent offenses. If fish are killed as a result of a pollutant discharge, the party responsible is charged with all environmental damages, including the value of the wildlife killed. The value of the wildlife is based on current market prices. The guilty party also pays all investigation costs.

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Ohio Regulations

Ohio farmers are required to follow many rules and regulations from the state. Below are some of the current laws and legislation in place that all Ohio livestock and poultry farmers are required to follow.

Ohio Nutrient Law

Passed in 2015, Ohio Senate Bill (SB) 1 establishes standards for on-farm nutrient management and water quality measures. SB 1 prohibits the spreading of manure and commercial fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorous in the Lake Erie Watershed when fields are frozen, snow-covered or saturated. It also prohibits spreading commercial fertilizer if there is a greater than 50 percent chance for at least an inch of rain in the next 12 hours. The regulations also prohibit the spreading of manure when there is a greater than 50 percent chance of at least one half an inch of rain in the next 24 hours. To review the complete requirements and exemptions for this bill, click here.

To utilize manure from a concentrated animal feeding facility that is regulated under ODA’s Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting, a person must hold either a Certified Livestock Manager license or certification under Ohio’s new fertilizer applicator certification program. The provision pertains only if applying the manure for agricultural production on more than 50 acres.

Agricultural Fertilizer Applicator Certification

Ohio Senate Bill 150 was passed in 2014, and requires farmers with 50 or more acres to attend a course on fertilizer application. This certification process supports responsible agricultural practices and promotes the 4R program while allowing Ohio to continue to grow its vital agriculture industry.

SB150 is the first legislation of its kind in the nation to require certification for fertilizer application. The bill also requires some publicly-owned water treatment facilities to begin monthly monitoring of phosphorus by December 1, 2016. All certified fertilizer applicators are required to keep records as pursuant to OAC 901:5-4-04

Starting in 2020, SB150 will ban depositing dredged material in Ohio’s portion of Lake Erie and its tributaries. The measure also contains important provisions that go after “bad actors” – if an applicator applies fertilizer in a manner that causes a problem, they can have their certification revoked and can’t apply fertilizer. They also will face fines and additional charges. 

Certified Livestock Manager Certification

Ohio law requires Ohio’s major CAFFs and every manure broker or manure applicator who handles more than 4,500 dry tons or 25 million liquid gallons of manure per year to obtain the Certified Livestock Manager (CLM) certification from ODA. The applicant must complete core classes on nutrient management standards, manure storage and handling and Ohio manure regulations and must also complete three elective classes on water quality, soil testing, stockpiling, emergency action plans, spill reporting, value of manure nutrients, recordkeeping, biosecurity, liability or applying manure to growing crops. CLMs must complete 10 hours of continuing education every three years to maintain their certification.

Ohio Nuisance Laws

Private nuisance lawsuits may be filed against livestock and poultry farmers. Nuisance law is based on the right of landowners to be free from unreasonable interference with the enjoyment of their property. Nuisance claims against livestock and poultry farmers often involve situations such as odor problems, dust, noise, flies, rodents, water contamination or manure spills.

Excessive odor from the feeding of animals is considered a public nuisance under the Ohio Revised Code (3767). The inspection of nuisance situations is under the jurisdiction of an inspector appointed by the board of county commissioners. The local health department usually handles inspections. However, the Ohio Revised Code does provide an “agricultural exemption” for individuals (1) operating outside of municipal corporations and (2) whose operations conform to generally accepted agricultural practices that considerably reduce adverse effects on public health, safety, or welfare.

If a nuisance lawsuit is brought against a livestock or poultry farmer, changes in production practices may have to be made, damages may have to be paid, or the operation may be closed. The primary steps a farmer can use to avoid these types of action are to have good records, use a manure management plan and follow the suggestions in this program. Many states have enacted right-to-farm laws that may offer some protection from nuisance lawsuits. In some areas, producers have traded development rights for nuisance protection. Following the steps in the Environmental Assurance Program will give you a start at reducing the chances of a nuisance lawsuit against your operation.

The Farmland Preservation Act

Ohio’s Right to Farm Law is also known as the Farmland Preservation Act or Ohio Revised Code Section 929. In order to utilize the protection the law offers, the farm must be registered in an Agricultural District at the county auditor’s offices. (Most registrations expire in five years.) The farm must also be following generally accepted agricultural practices.

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Federal Regulations

The primary federal regulations that affect livestock and poultry farmers relate to water quality.

Clean Water Act

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly called the Clean Water Act or CWA) is the primary federal law governing water pollution in the United States. This law prohibits the discharge of pollutants into a waterway from a point source unless authorized by a permit from the appropriate agency. A concentrated livestock feeding operation that discharges into the nation’s waters is considered a point source and must obtain a permit. The nation’s waters are generally considered to be rivers, streams, lakes, and other bodies of surface water and subsurface water not entirely confined upon land owned or leased by an individual or group.

Under the Clean Water Act, a regulated discharge that occurs without first obtaining a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit subjects the violator to fines of $25,000 per day. The legislation also allows provision for citizen suits against point-source discharges, including concentrated animal feeding operations.

Coastal Zone Management Act

The Coastal Zone Management Act is designed to reduce pollutants in coastal waters through non-point control practices. States are required to implement the non-point-source management measures to participate in the coastal program. These management measures include nutrient management plans, pest irrigation and animal manure management.

Ohio has developed a Coastal Zone Management Plan for non-point sources, including agriculture. Information on specific portions of the plan and its management practices is available from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

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Record Keeping and Reporting

In today’s complex economy and with the rapid pace of the agriculture industry, it is essential for Ohio livestock and poultry farmers to maintain proper records of their farm operation.

Good records are critical to finding credit and capital to grow your farm operation. All fertilizer certificate holders are required to maintain fertilizer records as defined in OAC 901:5-4-04. In addition, all Federal Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans, cooperative credit services, private lenders and most grants require several years’ financial records.

When implementing or reviewing your financial record keeping system, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Keep it simple. If the record keeping system is unnecessarily complicated, you are more likely to make mistakes.
  • Maintain financial records that have the appropriate level of detail depending upon the size of your business.
  • Make sure that your records provide essential information on a timely basis.
  • A record keeping system should include information, such as income and expense ledger by month, income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement.
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Who to Call

For more information on what you must do on your livestock farm, reference the Who To Call list.

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Ohio Livestock Coalition  •  2800 Corporate Exchange Dr., Suite 260  •  Columbus, OH 43231