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The Jefferson County Smoke Management Program is a cooperative effort between Jefferson County Seed Growers and the Jefferson County Rural Fire Protection District. Everyone involved with the program is committed to conducting a safe, controlled agricultural field burning season that insures public safety and that takes into the highest consideration the impact of smoke on the communities of Central Oregon. Jefferson County farmers assess themselves two dollars per stubble acre for open burning to fund the operation of the program and for research to find new alternatives to field burning.
Field burning has been a cultural practice used by producers since the grass seed industry began. Farmers learned early on that yields decrease dramatically without burning. Field burning also helps with disease and weed control and aids in seed promotion. To date, there has been no other means that is as effective at accomplishing all of these things as field burning. Farmers do not burn all of their fields either. Approximately 29% of the county’s wheat fields and 55% of the total grass fields were not burned in the past season. Farmers are also not able to burn anytime they want. No burning is done on the weekends, except flaming on Saturday, which has to be finished by 4 PM, or on holidays. There is also no burning when smoke dispersal will be poor and when winds are predicted to carry smoke to populated areas. Each day during the burning season weather forecasts, dispersion indexes, daily temperature indexes and pilot balloon data are collected, examined and then matched up with burning criteria to determine if and when it is possible to burn.
There are 9 weeks to the burn season, starting in late July and ending in October. Within those 9 weeks, there is usually around 42-45 possible burn days. Beginning in July farmers register their acres and burning can begin. The final two weeks of August have been the heaviest burning days in previous seasons. Open field burning season ends around the third week in September. After this date, no open field burning can be conducted until after the beginning of the year. There is a separate Propane Flaming and Vine Burning Season that extends four weeks beyond the end of the regular season to allow the flaming and burning of crops harvested later in the season, like potato and carrot vines.
For more information on the Jefferson County Smoke Management Program please visit their website!