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How do farms become exempt from NYS burn ban?

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  • Staff Report 

As New York State approaches the midpoint of its annual two-month burn ban, questions have arisen regarding the exemption of certain groups from the ban. The ban, enforced by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), aims to prevent forest fires by prohibiting the burning of brush and debris until May 14. The leading cause of springtime forest fires is the burning of such materials, according to the DEC.

The burn ban has been in place since 2009, as the Finger Lakes region is moderately at risk for forest fires. Recently, a Wayne County resident reported observing fruit farmers burning apple tree pruning piles and questioned whether they were exempt from the ban.

In response to this inquiry, the DEC confirmed that there are specific exceptions to the burn ban, including for farms. A DEC representative explained, “Organic agricultural wastes may be burned on-site where they are grown or generated, including brush and wood produced by clearing fields and other activities.”

To qualify for an exception, the burning must involve organic materials and occur on the property where the materials were generated.

Additionally, there are several requirements that farms must meet:

  1. Fires must take place on land larger than five acres and cannot last for more than 24 hours.
  2. The burning of pesticides, plastics, tires, or other non-organic materials is prohibited.
  3. Farmers seeking to use fire for controlling disease outbreaks in plants and animals must obtain DEC approval. Requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.