When disaster strikes, our instinct to provide assistance kicks in. That has been proven again with hay donations making their way out of Arkansas recently. But due to fire ants those donations don’t come without risk or regulation.
“A few weeks ago, we began seeing a lot of hay being moved,” says Paul Shell of the Arkansas State Plant Board. “We began to get a bunch of calls from people wanting to donate hay out West in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. There have been fires and drought and people want to help.
“Things like this happen about every five years. Most hay isn’t moving great distances but when it does we try and educate folks about the fire ant quarantine. Fire ants can be moved in hay, especially if it’s been in contact with the ground. We don’t want to transport fire ants into places that don’t have them yet.”
The fire ant quarantine is a federal quarantine managed by the USDA.
“The states do most of the enforcement. Most of the Southeast is currently under quarantine along with a majority of counties in Arkansas, Texas, and southern Oklahoma.”
View quarantine map (http://bit.ly/2nZVCG7).
According to the department, “Agriculture is at risk from (fire ants) for several reasons. These ants will feed on the buds and fruits of numerous crop plants, especially corn, soybeans, okra, and citrus. They can also girdle young trees. Large nests located in ﬁelds interfere with and damage equipment during cultivation and harvesting. IFA respond rapidly and aggressively to disturbances, and ant attacks inhibit ﬁeld-worker activities. A single ﬁre ant can sting its target repeatedly. Young and newborn animals are especially susceptible to the venom of these stings.”
How can you set up an inspection?
“Most of time people will call us and say ‘please come check out my hay,’” says Shell. “For those who are (moving hay) on a regular basis, we set up a compliance agreement they sign. That works by them agreeing to store their hay in a manner that won’t move fire ants.”
There are several options for compliance.
“One is by baling it and loading it within 24 hours. Another is storing it on hard surfaces like concrete, asphalt, hard-packed dirt. The hay can be raised off the soil onto pallets, old tires, visqueen. The bales can also be stacked two, or more, high so the upper bales are eligible for movement.
“If it’s more of a one-time deal, we’ll send out an inspector. They’ll look at the hay and see what, if any, is eligible to be moved. We then issue a certificate that’ll accompany the hay so if it’s checked at the border or upon delivery everyone knows it’s free of fire ants.
“If you have some hay you want to move, just call the (Arkansas Agriculture Department) front desk (501-225-1598) and they’ll put you in touch with us. Hopefully, we can get out and do the inspection within two or three days.”
Normally, if someone is moving hay as part of their business the plant board charges $50 for the inspection. “However, a lot of this last round has been donations so we’ve waived that fee.”