Hay producers and truckers should be aware of USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) rules restricting movement of hay out of fire-ant-quarantined areas. Extremely dry conditions in the Southeast have increased the movement of hay, and some growers may not be familiar with the quarantine rules.

"If a hay producer is in a fire-ant-quarantine area, his hay must be certified before he can move the hay out of the quarantined area," says Paul Shell, plant inspection and quarantine manager with the Arkansas State Plant Board. "The hay can be moved if the producer receives certification indicating the hay was not stored on the ground and was moved off the ground to a concrete or asphalt pad within 24 hours of being cut. Hay cannot be certified for movement outside of the quarantined area if it was stored on the ground." Inspections cost around $50 in Arkansas.

Fire ants are a problem throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, southern Arkansas, and parts of Tennessee, Texas and North Carolina. A few isolated areas in California and New Mexico have fire-ant problems as well. The quarantine is to prevent the insects from spreading to new areas.

Shell suggests hay producers call county extension agents or APHIS to find out specific rules pertaining to their locations.

For more on fire ants, as well as links to federal quarantine information and a map showing counties and states quarantined, visit hayandforage.com.