Regulate Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)


In most states, agriculture is afforded exemptions from many regulations that nonagriculture industries must follow. These exemptions were originally enacted to protect small and midsize farms but have been exploited by large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that operate more like a factory than a farm.[1] These operations have industrial-scale environmental impact, but they continue to be defined as “agricultural” and are thus exempt from many rules that govern other polluting industries.

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State Policy Priorities

  • Pass moratoria on new and expanding CAFOs.
  • Regulate CAFOs like any other pollution industry, and consider stripping agricultural operations over a certain size of agricultural exemptions from regulation.
  • Ban inhumane farming practices such as gestation crates, battery cages, and tail docking.

State Examples

  • In Illinois (2019 IL SB 1481), legislators considered allowing county governments to have a binding recommendation in the approval process of a new CAFO permit.
  • Oregon (2017 OR SB 197) considered a bill to direct the State Department of Agriculture to regulate emissions from large-scale dairy operations.
  • North Carolina (2021 NC HB 913) legislators considered a bill to require large-scale poultry operations to submit an annual animal waste management plan.
  • In Maryland (2017 MD SB 773), which has many poultry operations, legislators considered a bill to direct the Department of the Environment to conduct a compliance assessment of itself and the state’s CAFOs with state and federal regulations.
  • Oregon (2021 OR SB 583), Iowa (2021 IA HF 440), Maryland (2020 MD HB 1312), Rhode Island (2021 RI SB 469), and Ohio (2021 OH HB 349) have considered legislation to pause the construction of new and expanding CAFOs until better laws are in place.
  • New Jersey (2021 NJ SB 3041) is considering a bill to ban gestation and veal crates and name restricting movement or providing inadequate space to farm animals a criminal offense.
  • Nevada (2021 NV AB399) passed a bill banning the sale of eggs from hens raised in battery cages and required all eggs sold in the state to be from cage-free facilities.


Inspired? Ready to dig in on these issues with your rural neighbors? Our practical communications toolkits will help you connect with new communities through common values. The toolkits provide examples on narrative framing, press release templates, sample talking points, and more. 

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