Rice Crop Infestation in Two Counties Leads to Emergency Burn Agreement
SACRAMENTO - The California Air Resources Board (ARB) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) today issued an Executive Order to allow rice growers to burn limited additional acreage of crops infected with a devastating disease called Rice Blast.
The action is being taken to prevent the spread of the infestation and protect the state's 500,000 rice acreage from further infestation. Rice Blast was detected for the first time in California earlier this month. The infestation has affected 8,000 acres in parts of Glenn and Colusa counties.
"This is the type of emergency that the Legislature foresaw when it included the Act of God' provision in the law," said ARB Chairman John Dunlap. "These carefully supervised burnings reduce the risk of the disease reoccurring and prudently protects the state's rice crop without increasing public exposure to smoke."
In accordance with the 1991 Rice Straw Burning Reduction Act, the Executive Order will invoke the statute's "Act of God" extraordinary circumstances clause, which allows the number of acres eligible to be burned to increase by 12,000 in the two counties impacted by the disease. This is approximately two percent of the acres subject to the phase down law this year.
In addition, the state will increase measures to control the further spread of this disease. This includes: additional information and education outreach to the public and rice industry; the destruction of rice stubble and straw located in adjacent fields exposed to the infestation; cleaning of rice harvesters and other harvesting equipment; allow the planting of only certified seeds and use seed treatments to prevent any further contamination; avoid excessive nitrogen fertilization; and increase efforts to monitor rice fields for signs of additional outbreaks.
There are absolutely no human health problems associated with the consumption of rice-only grain infected by Rice Blast. The disease affects production and yield. Experts believe that the infestation in California may be associated with the combination of high temperatures and high humidity which occurred in the Glenn and Colusa county areas this year. These are the type of weather conditions found in the southeast United States and Asia, where the disease is more common.
ARB expects today's action to have a minimal effect on the amount of acreage which can be burned under existing state law. Burning of fields will be carefully managed under the conditions of the Sacramento Valley Fall Burn Plan, which is designed to ensure the public health and safety. ARB will continue to allowing agricultural burning on days only when meteorology conditions are favorable, using state of the art computer analysis to determine proper acreage.