Air quality issues are turning the attention of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to the agricultural practice of burning off fields.

Burning off stubble, the remains left in fields after crops such as corn or rice are harvested, is a common practice in Arkansas.

The ADEQ information notes that the practice in Arkansas of burning post-harvest fields, "is a significant contributor to particulate pollution in the state."

Current state law exempts the practice from regulation. The ADEQ request includes recommendations for possible changes in regulation of crop residue management.

The ADEQ Request for Proposals (RFP) is for Arkansas colleges and universities to evaluate the various post-harvest crop residue techniques used in the state and determine their impact on the environment, including particulate air pollution levels in the state.

The ADEQ release notes that recent air quality monitoring in Arkansas shows the state is approaching limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter in the state.

Should those limits be exceeded and cause any area of state to be listed by the EPA as in "non-attainment" of the limits, it would mean a number of mandatory and costly control measures would be imposed on communities and businesses to improve air quality.

ADEQ is asking for an assessment of current crop residue management practices in Arkansas; research of current regulatory requirements for crop residue management in other states; identification of viable crop residue management options, including burning; evaluation of all crop residue management options as they relate to economics, air quality, and total environmental impact; recommendations on crop residue management options for Arkansas; recommendations on possible statutory and regulation changes involving crop residue management in Arkansas.

ADEQ will accept proposals to conduct the study until 1 p.m. Mar. 26, 2013.

Proposals must be delivered to the ADEQ Air Division Planning Branch at the ADEQ Headquarters Building, 5301 Northshore Drive, North Little Rock, AR 72118 no later than 1 p.m. Mar. 26, 2013. The packet should contain one paper version of the RFP, plus an electronic copy on a CD in Microsoft format.

More detailed information on the RFP is available on the ADEQ website at by clicking the link to the crop residue management RFP in the "Hot Topics" box on the right-hand side of the website home page.