Permitted To Build

Today moving the mounds of paper work required to get a new hog facility built is nearly as much work as moving mounds of dirt.

    "Environmental pressures have driven the increased permits that producers are now required to have," says Mike Veenhuizen, Livestock Engineering Solutions, Greenwood, Ind. "The new federal Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation regulations, as well as state water quality – and in some cases air quality – standards all require permits to build a new facility."

Preparation is key to navigating the permitting waters, says Veenhuizen. He recommends that you start the process early, plan extensively and ask questions long before you want to break ground.

Find someone who can help you get through the red tape. University Extension agents, third-party consultants and producer associations are potential sources for help.

"Producers should visit with the manager at their state"s regulatory agency, even if they have recently gone through the process of building a new facility," says L.M. "Mac" Safley, president of Agri-Waste Technology. "If you don"t know the regulatory agents, someone at the state pork producer"s association should be able to help."

Information that you will need to get the necessary permits includes fairly sophisticated topographical maps, geology, location of streams, wetlands, endangered species, historical sites, soil and water reports, he notes.

Veenhuizen says there are two key areas that you need to look at for the permits:

1 Building distance set back from water. This includes surface water, drainage-ways, streams, creeks, public and private wells.

2 Soil samples and composition. You need to take two to four soil borings; know the depth to bedrock; and know whether it is a karst- or limestone-based soil.

"My advice to producers would be to save records of everything, because programs differ," says Veenhuizen. "The key pieces to hang on to include any of the application materials, forms, maps, site information, letters and permits."

To identify the regulations you must follow, first determine the category into which your operation falls. Your operation is an Animal Feeding Operation if you confine animals for at least 45 days in a 12-month period; and there"s no grass or other vegetation in the confinement area during the normal growing season.

Your operation is a large CAFO if it is an AFO and meets one of the following criteria:

  • 2,500 swine (each weighing 55 pounds or more.)
  • 10,000 swine (each weighing less than 55 pounds.)

Your 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 close contact with surface water running through the area where they are confined.

And your operation has at least:

  • 750 swine (each weighing 55 pounds or more.)
  • 3,000 swine (each weighing less than 55 pounds.)

Regardless of your operation"s size, it may be designated a CAFO if your permitting authority finds that it"s adding pollutants to surface waters.

While the state regulations vary, the federal CAFOs will require you to develop a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan. Here are recommendations from the National Pork Board of items you will need to develop a CNMP:

  • Conservation plan and supporting plan maps for all land involved in manure applications.
  • Soil test results.
  • Animal type, number and average weight involved.
  • Cropping and yield histories.
  • Crop rotation program.
  • Type and amount of bedding used.
  • Amount of wastewater produced and stored.
  • Analysis for each manure-storage containment.
  • Water-quality tests involving these systems: Water monitoring, drinking and irrigation.
  • Manure-application history.
  • Emergency response plan.
  • Animal mortality disposal plan.
  • Safety plan.
  • Operation and maintenance plan.
  • Soil-loss calculations.
  • Phosphorus assessment results.
  • Engineering design drawings and "as built" documen-tation for buildings and manure-storage facilities.
  • Soil maps.
  • Nitrogen Leaching Index (soil driven.)

That takes care of the federal regulations. Complying with CAFO standards will cover state regulations in most cases, but there is some variation between states.

"Until the federal CAFO standards surfaced, there was a wide range of state regulations," says Veenhuizen. "Now every state will have to comply with the CAFO regulations, but each state also has the right to implement more stringent requirements." However, some states, like Colorado, have laws that say state regulations cannot be more or less stringent than federal regulations.

"Five years ago it would"ve been easier to list states that were more friendly to expanding pork production, but now it"s pretty much a level field," says Safley.

Typical state requirements include a "confined feeding operation construction approval," which requires construction to begin within two years of permit approval, and be completed within four years. Operating approval is good for five years.

Another required permit is the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit. You may either get an individual NPDES permit or a general NPDES permit. The individual permit is specific to your farm, has unique permit conditions, requires a 30-day written public-comment period, must hold public hearings when requested, and is transferable. A general permit is a permit by rule. It has standard conditions, requires a public notice and public comments. There"s no public hearing and it is not transferable.

For a new facility, you also need to get a storm-water permit. This permit is required for construction if you disturb more than 1 acre of land during construction, including building sites and access drives.

You should also keep an eye on local requirements such as zoning changes, conditional use, special exceptions, setbacks and size thresholds, says Veenhuizen.

It can take six months or more to gather the information needed for the permits. Then it could take 30 days to 120 days to prepare all of the necessary applications, depending on how prepared you are. After that, expect the various agencies to spend 60 days to 180 days reviewing the applications, says Veenhuizen. That timeline will vary by state.

Safley expects the entire application process to take  six to 12 months. Most permitting authorities do a completeness review, so they could ask you for more information, which could further delay the process.

In addition to the time commitments, the costs of obtaining all the required permits varies greatly, but can be significant. Application fees cost about $50 for a CAFO and about $100 for a Confined Feeding Operation. But the real kicker is the costs to gather the necessary information, which is usually $2,000 to $5,000, but can be as high as $10,000, says Veenhuizen.

"The cost of developing a CAFO application can cost $5,000 to $50,000 depending on the size and proposed location," says Safley. "Costs could be even higher if you need to participate in one or more public hearings."

So, if you gather all the necessary information, invest the time and money into getting all the proper paperwork and permits, you might realize your reward to begin the actual construction on a new facility. That used to be the beginning of the hard work, but today, building construction is the easy part. 



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