A fire ant quarantine means hay producers in Mississippi must have their baled hay inspected before transporting it out of state.

Rocky Lemus, forage specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service and researcher with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said fire ants have not been established in many parts of the United States. Hay movement from the southern United States into areas impacted by the drought might increase the opportunity for fire ant colonization. Preventative regulations have been imposed on transporting hay from infected to non-infected areas.

“Our producers have a good opportunity to supply hay to farmers in parts of the Midwest and Arkansas. The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce’s Bureau of Plant Industry is ready to help our hay producers navigate the restrictions and requirements so they can move their product to these non-infested areas,” Lemus said.

In a Sept. 10 press release, the MDAC said that each load of hay going from Mississippi to drought-stricken areas must be “inspected and certified as apparently free offire ants prior to shipment.”

Prior to inspection, hay

  • Must be removed from direct contact with soil, preferably within 24 hours after baling. To reduce the fire risk, do not store hay in a barn immediately after baling.
  • Must be placed on concrete, pallets, tires or plastic.
  • Should be stacked and separated by truckloads.

Each truck load must have a certificate of inspection. Producers are strongly encouraged to treat for fire ants in the area around the hay storage site so the insects do not move into the hay.

Lemus suggested producers contact MDAC’s Bureau of Plant Industry at (662) 325-3390 several days in advance of a planned shipment to get detailed instructions about the inspection process.

For information about hay certification in Mississippi, contact a local county Extension office or go to http://www.MSUcares.com and look for publication P2733, “Imported Fire Ant-Free Hay Certification in Mississippi.”