The wet, cool spring caused delayed harvest of winter wheat and other grains, and now farmers may be looking to burn off crop residue to be able to switch crops more quickly.
However, North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler says farmers should review open burning rules before burning off crop residue to ensure they stay in compliance with state air quality rules .
“As we get into warmer, more humid days, farmers will especially need to be aware of air quality forecasts and refrain from burning on Code Orange, Red or Purple days,” Troxler said. “Also, open burning without an air quality permit can only be done for disease control, pest control or to burn crop residue if necessary to ensure seed and soil contact.”
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Division of Air Quality created standards for acceptable agricultural burning  without a permit in 2009.
North Carolina law prohibits most open burning because the smoke from outdoor fires can cause serious health problems and contribute to air pollution. It is always illegal to burn paper, trash and other manmade materials under North Carolina’s open burning rule and DAQ can issue civil penalties to violators.
Although farmers do not need a permit from DAQ, farmers may still need to obtain a burn permit from the North Carolina Forest Service if burning will take place within 500 feet of any woodlands. Burn permits are free and good for 30 days from date of issuance. The online application is at www.ncforestservice.gov .
Troxler encourages farmers to contact their local North Carolina Forest Service office or local fire department before burning to ensure that conditions are appropriate for the task. Questions about air quality should be directed to regional DAQ offices, which can be found at www.ncair.org .
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