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Agricultural Burning



Farmers may conduct agricultural burning for crop residue, field maintenance, and land clearing for agricultural operations. This does not include clearing land in order to construct structures, even those used in conjunction with agricultural operations.

Contact Us

Gerald Mood
Division of Air Quality
302-739-9402
DNREC ePermitting

Burns conducted for the following purposes, and those undertaken through the DNREC Tax Ditch Program, are considered agricultural burns:

  • Agricultural field maintenance
  • Crop residue removal
  • Livestock habitat improvement
  • Removal of diseased, infected, or infested crops
  • Land clearing for the initial establishment of an agricultural practice on previously uncultivated land

Applications and notifications required for burning in Delaware are managed through the DNREC ePermitting system, which offers online applications and allows users to manage their own portfolio of permits.

Requirements

Agricultural burns may only be conducted on land that has been zoned for agricultural use. Commercially or residentially zoned parcels will not qualify.

The land must currently be used or intended to be used primarily for the purpose of obtaining a profit by raising, harvesting and selling crops or by raising and selling livestock or poultry. This also includes activities conducted by not-for-profit agricultural research organizations, for activities necessary to serve that purpose.

Tenant farmers or those leasing their farms from a property owner must have the landowner’s approval to burn.

Agricultural Burn Application

Before conducting an agricultural burn, applicants must submit an application for agricultural burning, and receive approval from the DNREC Division of Air Quality. Application is made online through the DNREC ePermitting system.

An applicant must wait to burn until their application has been processed and approved. The applicant will receive authorization through email once written approval has been issued.

Those applying for agricultural burning approval must select a specific date for the burn as part of their application. Applications without a date selected will not be processed or approved.

Applicants should enter a date convenient for them. If the application is approved and the applicant has not started burning, or if approval comes after the selected date, the burn may be rescheduled for any reason, including weather conditions. The date can be changed by the applicant by logging in to the ePermitting system and updating the information before 11:59 p.m. on the approved burning date.

This can be done as often as needed to complete the burn. Failure to do so will require a new application and approval.

If the applicant has started burning and needs additional days to complete their burn, a new application and approval will be needed.

Restrictions and Details

County Fire Boards

New Castle County
302-571-7331

Kent County
302-734-6040

Sussex County
302-856-6306

Burning is only allowed between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. There is no limit to the amount of acreage or the number of piles that may be burned. However, vegetation must be piled no larger than what may be expected to burn within this time frame.

Before conducting an agricultural burn, those with written approvals must notify their local county fire board and submit their approval number.

Burning Over Multiple Days

Each written approval is issued for a specific day. All burning activity must cease by 4 p.m. on the approved day. If the applicant has started burning and needs additional days to complete their burn, a new application and approval will be needed.

Using a Fire Company

Occasionally, a fire company is asked to conduct an agricultural burn for safety reasons. This is allowed and does not require any paperwork from the fire company. However, it is still considered an agricultural burn, and requires an application for agricultural burning through the ePermitting system.

Land-Clearing

Agricultural burning may be used to clear previously uncultivated land for the establishment of a new agricultural practice.

Agricultural burning may not be used to clear land on which residential, industrial or commercial housing, dwellings or other structures are built within a period of five years after the land clearing by burning. This includes the construction of structures customarily used in conjunction with agricultural operations.

Demolition of Agricultural Structures

Agricultural burning may not be used to demolish structures customarily used in conjunction with agricultural operations. However, these structures may qualify for demolition via firefighting instruction.

Burning Agricultural Waste

Burning waste produced from agricultural operations is strictly prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Garbage/Trash
  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Animal waste matter

Seasonal Restrictions

Agricultural open burning is prohibited statewide during the ozone season, from May 1 through Sept. 30 each year.

Agricultural open burning is also prohibited on air quality action days when the State’s air quality has been forecast by the regional Air Quality Partnership (AQP) to be unhealthy. This includes days on which an approval may have already been granted. Forecasts are provided on this website and also by calling the Air Quality Partnership Information Line at 1-800-872-7261.

Check the forecast daily and take the proper actions to determine if an action day has been forecasted prohibiting open burning activity.

The Delaware State Fire Marshal may also issue a ban against open burning activity in individual counties or statewide.

The National Weather Service may issue a red flag warning against open burning activity due to unfavorable weather conditions that may result in dangerous fire conditions.




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