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Grass Farmers Restrict Themselves Will Hold Burning To Weekdays Despite New Law That Allows Unlimited Authority

Despite a new law that gives them nearly unlimited authority to burn fields this summer, Spokane County grass farmers said Thursday that they will restrict themselves to a 45-day window that bans burning on weekends and holidays.

The burn season will run Aug. 15 through Sept. 30, excluding Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and any holidays, said Martha Dailey, executive secretary of Intermountain Grass Growers Association, a group of independent farmers who produce lawn seed in Spokane and Kootenai counties.

Dailey declined to say why IGA had chosen to limit the burn season.

However, the change conforms to the voluntary guidelines used in Idaho under the 1991 Inland Northwest Field Burning Summit.

The summit limits field burning in Kootenai County to a 45-day window. Burning is banned Friday through Sunday and holidays, and is not allowed on rainy and windless days when heavy smoke could get trapped over Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.

Farmers burn to rid their fields of disease and weeds and to stimulate growth for the following season’s harvest of seed.

Until recently, Spokane County farmers operated under a strict 16-day burn window established by the Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority. SCAPCA made the burn period short to minimize the smoke’s effect on respiratory sufferers.

But a new law signed last week by Gov. Mike Lowry eliminates SCAPCA’s enforcement authority and opens agricultural burning to any day when weather conditions are favorable.

SCAPCA was scheduled to adopt the summit guidelines at its May 4 board of director’s meeting. The change would have given Spokane County grass growers the same opportunity to burn their fields as is allowed in Idaho, while providing the public with assurances that those who broke the rules would be prosecuted.

Mabel Caine, SCAPCA compliance administrator, said the agency has no authority to enforce the summit rules on farmers.

Glenn Jacklin, manager of production for Post Falls-based Jacklin Seed. Co., said grass farmers will do a good job managing the release of smoke to ensure it has the least affect on respiratory sufferers and the tourism industry.

“Growers know that if they don’t follow the burn season, they’re dead,” Jacklin said. “If one grower gets out of line, he’ll have to answer to other growers showing up on his doorstep.”

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