On-Farm Composting Rules and Permit Exemptions

Farmers have a vital role to play in producing and utilizing compost to restore depleted soils. Permit exemptions authorize compost operations on farms and smaller-scale facilities, such as community gardens, thus avoiding superfluous permitting requirements intended for larger, full-scale compost facilities. Because there are often significantly less risks or hazards associated with on-farm and small-scale composters, many states have incorporated permit exemptions into their composting regulations for such cases. Local zoning regulations can also be amended in order to facilitate on-site composting.

California – Composting Rules

California has the largest number of organic farms in the US, and these operations frequently utilize compost products for its myriad benefits. As such, California is careful to both foster in-state production of compost, as well as regulate composting operations based on risk levels associated with facility type. Californian compost operations are categorized in tiers and most are required to apply for a permit; however there are exemptions for some types of operations.… Read More

Iowa – Composting Rules

Iowa's regulations encourage on-farm, small-scale food scrap composting. The rules allow composters to accept up to two tons of food scraps from off-site per week without obtaining a solid waste permit. The composters must comply with specific site and operating requirements or their exempt status may be revoked. Facilities composting over two tons of food residuals and yard waste per week in any combination from off premises must obtain a permit and adhere to the solid waste composting requirements stipulated in state rules.… Read More

Maine – Composting Rules

Maine adopted new state composting rules on February 18, 2009. The state legislature mandated that the Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection collaborate to ease the regulatory burden on agricultural composting operations and revise the volume and types of materials that may be composted without a permit from the state. … Read More

Maryland – Montgomery County Ag Zoning Amendment

In February 2021, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed the Montgomery County Ag Reserve Zoning Amendment, which addresses limitations on the amount of materials farmers can source from off their farms for producing compost or mulch. This zoning amendment makes it easier for farmers in the county to mulch and compost by allowing more material to be sourced from off their farms.… Read More

Massachusetts – Composting Rules

Massachusetts allows certain types of composting operations to be conditionally exempt from the requirement to obtain a permit as long as specific performance standards are met.  These operations include leaf composters who have less than 10,000 tons on-site at one time.  Many other types of on-farm composting, including up to 20 cubic yards per day of vegetative scraps or 5 tons per day of food material, are permitted if a registration is submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture and performance standards are met.… Read More

New York – Composting Rules

New York requires agricultural composters who accept any amount of food scraps from off-site to apply for a permit. In addition to the permit requirement, composters must adhere to specific performance standards including methods of vector and pathogen reduction. Some non-food materials, including animal manure and no more than 3,000 cubic yards of yard trimmings per year, may be conditionally exempt from the permit requirement.… Read More

Ohio – Composting Rules

In the Midwest, Ohio’s composting regulations are a great model for the region and other parts of the country. Officials have designed rules to suit various land uses (i.e. rural, suburban, urban) and made special effort to adapt to contemporary community needs via permit exemptions.… Read More

Oregon – Composting Rules

Oregon's composting regulations aim to facilitate composting while preventing public nuisance issues and any adverse environmental consequences. Oregon revised its composting regulations in 2009, as a means to both facilitate greater amounts of composting, as well as ensure new and existing facilities performed at the same same level of quality standards.… Read More

Pennsylvania – Composting Rules

Pennsylvania, like many other states, has regulations that prohibit yard trimmings in landfills. Pennsylvania’s ban is less encompassing than many states, which ban yard trimmings in landfills regardless of their source of generation.  In addition, Pennsylvania has made a general permit available that will allow farmers to compost a number of nonhazardous municipal wastes. After composting, the material is no longer considered waste and the farmer can sell or distribute the material.… Read More

Rhode Island – Composting Rules

Rhode Island requires most small-scale composters to submit a registration to the state.  Certain composting activities such as applying agricultural manures or composting agricultural by-products produced on-site may be conducted without a registration.  In order for an agricultural composter to accept paper, yard trimmings, or food scraps from off-site they must receive approval from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.… Read More

Washington – Composting Rules

Washington has comprehensive composting regulations that facilitate composting by conditionally exempting several types of composting facilities – including those that process limited amounts of food scraps – from the requirement to obtain a permit.  Washington also aims to protect the environment and human health by requiring composters to test for pathogens and adhere to specific performance-based standards.  … Read More

West Virginia – Composting Rules

West Virginia addresses composting in a novel way: it categorizes acceptable farm and facility feedstock types more broadly than most states. West Virginia’s Yard Waste Composting Rule (33CSR3) prohibits yard waste from landfill dumping. … Read More

Wisconsin – Composting Rules

Wisconsin recently revised its composting regulations; the new rules became effective June 1, 2012. To ensure the quality of finished compost and minimize potential nuisances from materials mismanagement, the revisions require that composters use best management practices to curtail potential pathogens.… Read More