Maryland – On-Farm Composting Permit Exemptions

During Maryland’s 2023 legislative session, an update to the permit exemptions for on-farm composting facilities that process off-site food scraps and other materials named as “type 2 feedstock” (SB262/HB253) was passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law by the Governor on May 8, 2023

Previously, farms using 5,000 sq.ft. or less in support of composting, including area for storage of feedstocks and other materials, were exempt from obtaining a permit. This updated exemption more than doubles the area that may be used for on-farm composting: farms utilizing 10,000 sq.ft. or less for the active composting process, not including area for storage of materials or finished compost, are exempt from obtaining a composting facility permit. Development and operation of an on-farm composting facility processing off-site food scraps that exceeds this threshold is required to operate under a composting facility permit (COMAR


Other Exemptions for On-Farm Composting

In Maryland, certain farms that compost various materials are exempt from obtaining a permit, including: 

  • Farms that only process materials from on site and uses all compost on site, regardless of area used;
  • Farms that only process on-site materials and off-site yard waste, manure, or animal bedding within 40,000 sq.ft., with appropriate management plans; and
  • Emergency composting of on-site animal mortalities.

The addition of food scraps from off site necessitates stricter guidelines for on-farm composting, so the on-farm composting permit exemption updated by SB262/HB253 outlines specific best management practices that must be implemented to qualify for this exemption. This permit exemption allows greater flexibility for farm composting sites to diversify their composting recipes with off-site food scraps and support local organic waste diversion.


On-Farm Food Scrap Composting Permit Exemption

Farms that compost “type 2 feedstocks” generated off-site qualify for the permit exemption, as long as the on-farm compost sites uses 10,000 sq.ft. or less for active composting and only compost the following materials:

  • Organic materials generated on-site, including animal manure and bedding,
  • “Type 1 feedstock” generated on- or off-site,
    • “Type 1 feedstocks” include yard waste or other safe materials as determined by the Department of Environment
  •  “Type 2 feedstocks” generated on-site,
    • “Type 2 feedstocks” include source-separated organics (including food scraps and nonrecyclable paper) as well as approved animal manure and bedding
  • Off-site, non-contaminated “type 2 feedstock” that are properly stored and incorporated into the composting process within 24 hours of receipt.

Exempt on-farm composting facilities must also keep records of the arrival and processing of off-site “type 2 feedstocks” including food scraps.


Reporting the Impact of On-Farm Composting

As provisioned by this bill, the Department of Environment will produce a report by December 1, 2028 that encompasses the impacts of on-farm composting sites in Maryland. 

“(4) On or before December 1, 2028, the Department shall submit a report, in accordance with § 2–1257 of the State Government Article, to the General Assembly that analyzes the impact of on–farm composting facilities in Maryland, including: 
(i) The amount of food waste diverted from landfills; 
(ii) An estimate of the amount of finished soil amendment produced by on–farm composting facilities operating under this section; 
(iii) Operational challenges experienced by on–farm composting facilities; 
(iv) Violations and enforcement actions that have arisen as a result of the expansion of facilities under this section; and 
(v) Recommendations on the feasibility of expanding facilities to allow for up to 40,000 square feet to be used for food scrap composting activities.”

This clause includes reporting on the feasibility of increasing the allowable non-permitted active on-farm composting area to be raised from 10,000 sq.ft. to 40,000 sq.ft. 


More Information

Original post from April 11, 2023

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Follow Sophia Jones:
Sophia Jones

Sophia Jones is the Policy Lead with ILSR’s Composting for Community initiative, where she researches, analyzes and supports the building of US policy that advances local composting. Her background in sustainable development and agriculture reflects her interest in solutions-based, community-led development initiatives.

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Follow Linda Bilsens Brolis:
Linda Bilsens Brolis

Linda is the Senior Program Manager for ILSR’s Composting for Community Initiative and Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders Composter Training Program.