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Farmers should review rules before burning agricultural debris

May 21, 2012

Farmers should review open burning laws before burning off crop residue to ensure they stay in compliance with state air quality rules. The N.C. 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.

"Open burning without a permit can only be done for disease control, pest control or to burn crop residue if necessary to ensure seed and soil contact," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "The guidance document goes into additional detail about what is or is not acceptable."

North Carolina law prohibits most open burning because the smoke from outdoor fires can cause serious health problems and contribute to air pollution. Under state law, DAQ can assess fines up to $25,000 per violation.

Although farmers may not need a permit from DAQ, farmers may still need to obtain a burn permit from the N.C. 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

Troxler encourages farmers to contact their local N.C. 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