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Statewide burn ban exempts farmers, but the dry summer still poses a threat

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UPDATE: The state issued a revised burn ban on Friday, days after this report first aired, that includes a ban on all agricultural burning: https://www.wbrz.com/news/louisiana-issues-stricter-burn-ban-as-state-responds-to-sprawling-wildfires


ASSUMPTION PARISH - Droughts are an unusual problem in Louisiana where folks are accustomed to afternoon showers. For farmers, the drought can be harmful to crops is desperate need of water. 

Stephen Simoneaux is a sugarcane farmer in Belle Rose. He says the dry weather is concerning, and even though rainfall is usually a daily occurrence in the summer time, he says the drought shouldn't necessarily mean trouble for the crop yield statewide. However, he says in the parts of the state affected by the drought, crop yield could be lower than normal there.

"There's 20,000 extra acres from last year going into new sugarcane production," Simoneaux said. "Louisiana sugarcane is still expanding."

A dry summer isn't just threatening crop growth. It's also triggered a statewide burn ban Tuesday as dozens of wildfires burned across Louisiana. One in Beauregard Parish resulted in a mandatory evacuations. Farmers though, are exempt from the burn ban.

Thomas Long is the OSHEP director in Assumption Parish, and he deals with emergencies and disasters. He says to be exempt, farmers need a certification through the Department of Agriculture.

For Simoneaux, burning the sugar cane field doesn't happen until after the harvest in the fall. With dry conditions, one bad move could ruin crops. 

"There is potential for us to have the crops catch on fire, not so much from what we're doing at the moment, but just from mother nature or someone not being mindful," Simoneaux said.

For farmers with controlled fires, there are still consequences if things get out of hand.

"If that fire was to leave their property, they're still liable for any damage that occurred once it left the property," Long said.

Experts say most farmers know the risks and wouldn't start a fire when things are so dry. 


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