Good Question: Are fruit farmers exempt from the state burn ban?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Are fruit farmers exempt from the New York State burn ban?

The state is about halfway through the two-month period in which the Department of Environmental Conservation bans the burning of brush and debris until May 14. DEC says the leading cause of springtime forest fires is people burning these types of materials.

The DEC has been doing this since 2009 to prevent forest fires, which the Finger Lakes region is at moderate risk of.

This week, a viewer noticed something burning in Wayne County and asked us about it. Richard writes: “Are the fruit farmers of Wayne County exempt from the burn ban, because I see them burning the apple tree pruning piles all over Wayne County.”

I contacted the DEC about this and learned that there are some exceptions to the ban, including farms.

A representative from the DEC says: “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.”

In other words, if you want to burn stuff, it has to be organic and you have to do it on your property. There are some other requirements for farms:

  • Fires have to be on land larger than five acres and must not last more than 24 hours.
  • Burning of pesticides, plastics, tires, or other non-organic materials isn’t allowed.
  • If farmers want to use fire to control disease outbreaks in plants and animals, they have to get it approved by the DEC. The department handles those requests on a case-by-case basis.

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