Almond growers in the San Joaquin Valley as of June 1, 2007 will no longer be able to burn removed orchards as part of a ban on open agricultural burning being phased in by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. Growers will still have until June 2010 to obtain permits to burn prunings from surface harvested crops such as almonds.
The June deadline on orchard removal burning marks the third phase of the gradual elimination of open burning in the San Joaquin Valley to manage agricultural products, including prunings.
"This process has been going on for several years but this is the first phase-out deadline to affect almonds directly," says Gabriele Ludwig, Senior Manager, Global Technical & Regulatory Affairs with the Almond Board of California.
Ludwig said growers would be able to manage stumps and other orchard removal material through open burning after June 1 only under three specific scenarios, and only after obtaining a permit from the air district. The three exemptions to the June ban on orchard removals are:
1. To remove individual trees that fall down in an existing orchard.
2. For a single block up to 20 acres annually. This time-limited exemption will be available through June 1, 2015 to help growers contend with cost issues related to handling small acreage removals.
3. To burn diseased trees only when the county agricultural commissioner deems that burning diseased trees or limbs is the most effective way to eradicate or stop spread of the disease.
Ludwig notes that burning orchard materials is no longer permitted under any circumstances without a permit from the air district. The district is made up of eight Central Valley counties from Stockton to Bakersfield.