Because of hay shortages and increased hay movement, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has stepped up its enforcement of a federal quarantine to prevent the spread of fire ants.

That means growers in fire-ant-quarantined areas who have hay for sale must be sure to sell only to buyers in other quarantined counties or states. If they don’t, they could face stiff fines.

According to the agency, fire ants infest more than 320,000,000 acres in 13 states stretching from North Carolina to California. Besides being a major public nuisance because of their ferocious sting and aggressive behavior, fire ants damage crops and livestock.

Last month, USDA put additional counties in Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee, and all of South Carolina, on the quarantine list.

For information on the federal quarantine, as well as a map showing counties and states quarantined, visit: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/.

Our sister publication, Delta Farm Press, provides an in-depth story on the issue.