The Arkansas Rice Farmers board recently created a task force to develop crop management guidelines to address community concerns about smoke created when farmers burn row crop field refuse each fall. The task force had their second and final meeting earlier this week where they finalized the Voluntary Smoke Management Guidelines for Agricultural Burning.
Stakeholders representing the Arkansas Rice Federation, Arkansas Soybean Association, Ag Council of Arkansas, and the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation are on the task force with representatives from the Arkansas Agriculture Department, Arkansas Forestry Commission, University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, and Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality serving in an advisory capacity.
After approval by their respective boards, the guidelines will become official and made available to the public.
“This is an issue the ag industry as a whole has acknowledged and is working to address collectively,” said Jeff Rutledge, chairman of the Arkansas Rice Federation. “Field burning is part of a complete crop management strategy and our growers want to ensure the continued quality of the airshed their families and neighbors breathe.”
Stakeholders will spend this coming year educating agriculture burners of the advised steps to take before they begin burning at the end of the next growing season. Before burning, farmers are encouraged to call (800) 830-8015 to report their crop burn, and to check that conditions are favorable for burning at that time.
Dr. Warren A. Skaug, a pediatrian in Jonesboro, who had noticed an increase in children with respiratory ailments in the fall, worked with the task force to help establish the new guidelines. “I think the citizens of Northeast Arkansas will be pleased at the work this task force has started,” said Dr. Skaug. “Their efforts are a step in the right direction and I look forward to watching this initiative progress.”