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Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations

A Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) is an agricultural operation that meets one or more of the following criteria under DEP's Chapter 92a :

  1. The operation is considered a Concentrated Animal Operation (CAO) with greater than 300 Animal Equivalent Units (AEUs); or
  2. The operation maintains an animal population of greater than 1,000 AEUs; or
  3. The operation is defined as a large CAFO under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations at 40 CFR 122.23(b)(4).

A CAO is defined in the State Conservation Commission's (SCC's) Chapter 83 as an agricultural operation with eight or more AEUs where the animal density exceeds two AEUs per acre on an annualized basis. An AEU is one thousand pounds live weight of livestock or poultry animals, on an annualized basis, regardless of the actual number of individual animals comprising the unit.

Agricultural operations meeting the definition of a CAFO in Pennsylvania are required to obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit coverage. DEP is delegated to administer the federal NPDES program under an agreement with EPA. Under EPA regulations, the production area of a CAFO (i.e., animal confinement areas, manure storage areas, raw material storage areas, and waste containment areas) is considered a point source. A discharge of pollutants from the production area is not authorized except during heavy precipitation events called "design storm events." The magnitude of a design storm event in which a discharge may be authorized depends on the type of animals maintained on a CAFO, and ranges from the 25-year/24-hour to the 100-year/24-hour storm.

DEP has been administering the NPDES CAFO program in Pennsylvania for over 20 years. CAFOs may, if eligible, seek coverage under the NPDES General Permit for Operation of CAFOs (PAG-12) or, if ineligible for PAG-12 coverage, obtain an individual NPDES permit. Both permits require the submission of annual reports. The PAG-12 General Permit that is currently available became effective on January 1, 2024, and will expire on December 31, 2029.

Please review the documents provided through the links below for additional information on DEP's administration of the NPDES CAFO program, including permits, guidance, and reports and other forms. For general questions concerning NPDES permits for CAFOs, contact DEP's Bureau of Clean Water, NPDES Permitting Division at (717) 787-5017. For general questions concerning compliance monitoring activities for CAFOs, contact DEP's Bureau of Watershed Restoration and Nonpoint Source Management, at

Permits and Applications


CAFO Forms