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Agricultural Review

Guidelines set for acceptable agricultural burning

Farmers will have more specific guidelines for acceptable outdoor burning under an agreement state environmental and agricultural officials signed recently.

The memorandum of understanding between the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Division of Air Quality and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services sets guidelines for acceptable burning at farms, primarily to control diseases or pests as well as some crop residues.

“The purpose of this agreement is to better manage agricultural burning so we can minimize the effects of air pollution on people,” said DAQ Director Keith Overcash. “Smoke is unhealthy to breathe and harms the environment, but we recognize that there are situations where farmers may need to burn crop debris in order to control diseases, pests and other problems.”

Under the state open burning rule, it is always illegal to burn man-made materials such as trash, paper, lumber, tires, plastics and chemicals. The rule allows exceptions for certain burning of trees, crop residues and other vegetative matter but doesn’t provide specific guidelines on acceptable agricultural burning.

Under the new agreement, it remains illegal for anyone to burn man-made materials. However, farmers may burn crop residues, tree trimmings and other vegetative matter to control diseases and pests. Farmers also may be able to burn crop residues when NCDA&CS considers it an acceptable practice, but the agreement discourages burning when better alternatives such as no-till agriculture are available.

“This agreement provides clear guidance about the acceptable uses of burning for agronomic purposes,” said Dewitt Hardee, NCDA&CS environmental programs manager, who worked with DAQ on this.


A free brochure describing what is allowed and prohibited under the open burning rule can be obtained by calling (919) 733-3340, or writing to the Division of Air Quality at 1641 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1641, or visiting the DAQ Web site at

NCDA&CS Public Affairs Division, Andrea Ashby, Director
Mailing Address:1001 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1001
Physical Address: 2 West Edenton Street, Raleigh NC 27601
Phone: (919) 707-3001; FAX: (919) 733-5047

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