LAFAYETTE, La. (KPEL News) - Field burning - it makes for a controversial topic of discussion here in South Louisiana.

According to, "field burning means the burning of any grass field, grain field, pasture, rangeland or other field by open burning or by use of mobile equipment or flaming equipment on any land or vegetation."

On one hand, field burning is very beneficial for farmers as they clear their fields of weeds and waste. It says them a ton of money. About $120 million per year says data from the LSU Ag Center as pointed out by our news partners at Louisiana Radio Network.

(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Field burning has also played a major factor in fatal crashes, though, and in breathing problems for people who have upper respiratory and chronic problems. One tragic story that comes to mind was a crash near Kaplan High School that took the life of a Lake Arthur man. Louisiana State Police say a farming operation was burning field edges near LA 14 when smoke started building up, affecting the vision of drivers on the road. In just a matter of moments, two separate but related crashes happened. Then, that road blockage led to a third crash, this one carrying what would be the person who would die - 26-year-old Erin Mathew LaPoint.

Rep. Beryl Amedee
Rep. Beryl Amedee

There are some lawmakers who believe alternatives to field burning need to be found. So, Houma Representative Beryl Amedee is seeking to form a task force to address the problem. And, Rep. Amedee says this doesn't need to be a discussion among only lawmakers. She wants farmers to be involved as well as representatives from fire safety, medical, and scientific industries.

The people that I have heard from both farmers and community members are in agreement that this is a discussion that we should have. I think this is a great step to take to formally and officially look into it and get information from all the experts who are working on these things.

While Rep. Amedee has experienced breathing problems from her time near the sugar cane fields while growing up, one of her constituents - John Achee Jr. - experienced the heartache field burning can cause when it played a part in his dad's death in a fatal crash, points out The Advocate.

We think this is an important moment in Louisiana history," Achee told The Advocate. "We've been burning sugar cane for 200 years, and we think this will be a move in a positive direction."

Achee's nonprofit - Citizens Against Agricultural Field Burning - has met with Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain and Achee is now hoping his state rep can help him bring about the innovation needed to make field burning a thing of the past.

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