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Frequently Asked Questions


Below you'll find answers to frequently asked questions about Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (colloquially referred to as factory farms). If you have additional questions to suggest, please feel free to email us at


What is a CAFO?


CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) is the legal term for a factory farm of a specific size. See the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) website for more information.


What regulation currently governs CAFOs?


CAFOs are governed by the U.S. federal government, through the 'constitutional authority of the Commerce Clause and the statutory authority of the Clean Water Act.' Regulation is conducted through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting system. For more information, look at this white paper on the governance of animal waste. 


Why should I care about CAFOs?


CAFOs pose risks to the environment and human health. Dangers include water and air pollution, carbon dioxide and methane emissions that contribute to climate change, and the spread of disease and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Check out this excellent Union of Concerned Scientists publication for more information.


Where can I learn more about CAFOs?


A wide range of groups provide useful information about CAFOs.


Governmental groups

*EPA (Environmental Protection Agency): 

Read about regulations governing Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) and Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

*VDEQ (Virginia Department of Environmental Quality) and Virginia law governing CAFOs

Non-governmental groups

*Chesapeake Bay Foundation

*United Poultry Concerns

*Farm Forward


Do I live near CAFOs?

Take a look at this interactive map, made by project collaborator, Tim Russell


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