Regulations for Medium Farm Operations (MFOs)

Downloadable Documents & Helpful Links


Introduction to the MFO Program

Created in 2006  in response to changes in federal regulations for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), the Medium Farm Operation (MFO) program provides a Vermont-specific alternative to the federal permitting program that allows medium sized farms to seek coverage under a single General Permit issued by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM). The program's requirements exceed those of the Federal Clean Water Act and aim to reduce the amount of phosphorus and other nutrients entering Vermont waterways.

The MFO General Permit establishes regulatory requirements for Medium Farm Operations in the state of Vermont pertaining to the management of agricultural wastes and prohibits the direct discharge of waste into state watersUnless otherwise given notice by the Agency, all medium farms in the state of Vermont are required to operate under the coverage of a General Permit. The Medium Farm Operation General Permit is valid for a five year period at which time it is renewed by the VAAFM.


MFO Definition

A MFO is defined as: The production area, the barns, the land devoted to waste storage and other agricultural structures, including those created as waste management systems constructed to prevent direct discharges to waters of the state or to prevent groundwater from exceeding state groundwater quality standards, designed, adapted, or used to operate a farm in which the barn or barns are designed to house more than:
(i) 200 to 699 mature dairy cows, whether milked or dry;
(ii) 300 to 999 youngstock or heifers;
(iii) 300 to 999 veal calves;
(iv) 300 to 999 cattle or cow/calf pairs;
(v) 750 to 2,499 swine weighing over 55 pounds;
(vi) 3000 to 9,999 swine weighing less than 55 pounds;
(vii) 150 to 499 horses;
(viii) 3,000 to 9,999 sheep or lambs;
(ix) 16,500 to 54,999 turkeys;
(x) 9,000 to 29,999 laying hens or broilers with a liquid manure system;
(xi) 25,000 to 81,999 laying hens without a liquid manure handling system;
(xii) 1,500 to 4,999 ducks with a liquid manure handling system;
(xiii) 10,000 to 29,999 ducks without a liquid manure handling system; or,
(xiv) any other animal type and number that the Secretary may deem
*Animals must be confined in a non-vegetated area AND the confinement must be for 45 days or more during a 12-month period.

MFO Rules

MFOs must to adhere to the Medium Farm Operation Program Rules at all times. Outlined below are the general standards and procedures to follow in order to remain in compliance:
  • Existing MFOs shall have a field-by-field Nutrient Management Plan (NMP).
  • Conservation practices shall be in place to assure that there are no discharges of wastes from the production area to waters of the state.
  • The production area shall be managed in compliance with all applicable Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs).
  • All land-applied wastes shall be applied at rates according to a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) developed by a certified nutrient management planner or the permittee.
  • All wastes generated shall be stored so as not to generate runoff from a 25-year, 24-hour rainfall event.
  • The MFO shall be managed in accordance with the provisions of the nutrient management plan developed pursuant to Subchapter IV of the General Permit.
  • The MFO shall implement erosion and sediment control practices for land clearing, field drainage, ditching, or other field maintenance activities to prevent adverse water quality impacts to surface water, groundwater, and to prevent movement of sediment across property boundaries.
  • Adjoining surface waters shall be buffered from croplands by at least 25 feet of perennial vegetation measured from the top of the bank.
  • No manure, compost or other wastes shall be applied within the vegetative buffers, although the use of fertilizer for the establishment or maintenance of the vegetative buffer is allowed. Harvesting the buffer is allowed.
*Please review the Medium Farm Operation Program Rules (pdf) a for a complete overview of all MFO program rules and regulations. 


How to Apply for a New MFO General Permit

New MFO operations must carefully review both the MFO Program Rules and the MFO General Permit before completing a Notice of Intent to Comply (NOIC) to be submit it to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets. 

All new MFOs must have a field-by-field Nutrient Management Plan developed by a certified nutrient management planner or the permittee prior to commencing operation. 


How to Maintain/Update an Existing MFO Permit

Annual Reporting and Operating Fee Requirements: Permitted MFOs must submit an annual report and operating fee of $1,500.00 to the VAAFM by April 30 of each year.  

Attn Jeff Cook
116 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05620

Nutrient Management Planning: As part of the required Annual Reporting Requiremnts, MFOs must have an up-to-date Nutrient Management Plan and accurate nutrient (manure and fertilizer) application records.

Transferring ownership of a MFO:  A MFO may transfer General Permit coverage with the sale or lease of a farm. Written notification shall be made by the original permittee to the Agency within 10 days of that transaction. Written notification shall include a statement signed by the new owner or lessee which indicates that the new owner or lessee understands and agrees to comply with the conditions of the transferred MFO permit.   The new owner or lessee shall notify the Secretary in writing within 30 days of that transaction, describing any proposed changes in operation or facilities. No increase in number of animal type is allowed to occur without a full review of the operation by the Agency.

Terminating Ownership of MFO: A MFO may terminate General Permit coverage if it falls below the animal threshold for a MFO or is going out of business. The Notice of Termination must be submitted within 90 days of the termination of operations.

Reporting an incident on a MFO: If for any reason there is a discharge of wastes from the production area to the waters of the state, the permittee shall notify the Agency orally within 24 hours from the time that the permittee became aware of the discharge. A written Incident Report shall be provided within 5 days of the discharge.