Agricultural burning is the practice of using fire to reduce or dispose of vegetative debris from an agricultural activity. Some common practices include:
Agricultural burning can produce a large amount of smoke in a short amount of time. To reduce impacts, permits are usually required before burns can be conducted. These permits can restrict the type and amount of agricultural materials to be burned, and limit burning to those times when air quality and meteorological conditions are most suitable for reducing potential impacts (see Smoke Management).
Agricultural field burning, in particular, has a long and controversial history in the Northwest. Concerns over impacts to public health, safety, and the environment have led to stronger regulation, mandated phase-downs, and even bans on some types of field burning. Lawsuits by clean air groups have been filed against individual growers who burn their fields and against state authorities responsible for controlling the practice or protecting air quality.
Region 10 is working with our state, local, and tribal environmental partners, the agricultural community, clean air groups, universities, and other stakeholders to help facilitate solutions to regional agricultural burning issues. Efforts include:
- field burning large areas of crop residue after harvest to reduce excess plant material, to control crop diseases, weeds or pests, or to maintain crop yields;
- disposing of piles of agricultural debris, such as orchard trees, limbs, or haystacks; and
- clearing vegetation out of irrigation ditches and canals.
- support of research and demonstration projects that seek alternatives to burning;
- enhancements to state and tribal smoke management programs, such as better monitoring of air quality near field burning areas;
- improved smoke modeling systems that can better predict and help prevent impacts;
- increased regional coordination between various burn programs and communication with the public on daily burn information; and
- support of studies to assess the health effects of smoke.
The following links provide additional information on efforts by EPA and others related to agricultural burning:
EPA Region 10 Smoke and Air Quality Strategy
EPA Makes Northwest Field Burning a Top Priority (November 2000) [PDF, 2 pages, 531K ]
Agricultural Burning Stakeholder Forums, January to May 2001 (PDF, 21 pages, 210K]
Clean Air Act Seminar Presentation: Smoke and Air Quality (June 2002) [PDF, 76 pages, 2.7M]
EPA Works with Idaho on Agricultural Burning
Regulatory and technical information on agricultural burning from EPA’s National Agricultural Compliance Assistance Center
Idaho State Department of Agriculture, Online Crop Residue Disposal Information
Oregon Department of Agriculture, Field Burning in the Willamette Valley
Washington State Department of Ecology, Agricultural Burning Home
Agricultural Burning Smoke Exposure and Health Effect Study in Pullman
Spokesman-Review.com - Newstracks on Field Burning Issue