Utilizing wastes has long been an accepted part of farming. Fortunately for farmers, the transportation, processing, and use of many types of waste products are exempt from the requirements of Pennsylvania’s waste regulations. These activities may also be exempt from aspects of a municipality’s land use and zoning requirements. Unfortunately, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) and many local governments often are unaware of these exemptions. The end result is that farmers are frequently required to comply with regulatory restrictions from which they are exempt.
For example, farmers are exempt from waste permitting requirements when they use “food processing waste” in the course of “normal farming operations.” Both of these phrases are defined in the Solid Waste Management Act. What this means, in practical terms, is that farmers are allowed to transport food processing wastes, store the material on their property, and land apply on their farm without obtaining a permit from DEP. Farmers, however, may still need to comply with some applicable regulatory requirements and operate consistent with best management practices when conducting such activities.
Composting operations also frequently cause considerable confusion on the part of regulators. While DEP has detailed regulations that apply to composting, a composting facility that solely utilizes food processing and/or agricultural waste as part of normal farming operations is exempt from permitting requirements.
Farmers also generally do not need to obtain a permit to store and apply agricultural waste, such as manure, on their farms. Finally, farmers should be aware that construction that is part of their farming operations is often exempted from their local municipality land development requirements.
These exemptions often are confusing and can vary depending upon the facts of a particular situation. When in doubt, attorneys Stock and Leader should be consulted to make sure activities are conducted in accordance with all applicable regulatory requirements.