Hay suppliers should heed red imported fire-ant quarantines as they try to help Arkansas livestock owners short on hay, says John Jennings, University of Arkansas Extension forage specialist.

“Many producers from across the southeastern U.S. are offering hay for sale to help their colleagues in Arkansas,” he says. “However, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and most of Texas are in fire-ant-quarantined areas, which means hay suppliers have to use care to comply with USDA quarantines.”

Certain highway restrictions have been eased for 30 days to help hay movement. Yet transportation restrictions linked to fire-ant quarantines are still in place to keep the ants from spreading, according to the Arkansas State Plant Board. Red imported fire ants currently infest Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Puerto Rico.

Much of Arkansas is included in the quarantine. Hay from quarantined areas inside and outside the state may be shipped without restriction to other quarantined areas within it, says Kelly Loftin, University of Arkansas Extension entomologist.

“The issue is with shipment from quarantined areas to non-quarantined areas,” he says. “In that case, the hay must be certified to be fire-ant free and have been stored properly – not in contact with the ground – for it to be allowed to its destination.”

Certification may take the form of a USDA compliance agreement with a USDA seal or a limited permit signed by either a USDA or appropriate state regulatory official from the state of origin, Loftin says. A copy of a certificate needs to accompany the shipment.

“Certification is very critical,” Jennings says. Even properly stored hay that hasn’t been certified could be turned back. “Arkansas had hay turned back from Tennessee a few years back because it had not been certified.”

Check the most recent fire-ant quarantine map, find fire-ant quarantine areas by zip code or check this USDA brochure about the potential to move fire ants in hay bales.

For questions about hay and restrictions, call the Arkansas State Plant Board at 501-225-1598.