Minnesota Pays Farmers to Leave Standing Corn for "Living Snow Fence"

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is willing to pay farmers $1,000 per acre to leave corn rows standing near highways in an effort to control blowing snow in the winter. ( Minnesota Department of Transportation )

Farmers in Minnesota are being recruited to leave standing corn in an effort to create windbreaks along highways to prevent blowing snow.

In a press release the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) shares that it is willing to pay landowners who are willing to leave standing corn, hay bales or silage bags along select state roads to protect those areas in the winter. The program has been going for 19 years in the state and was similarly promoted in 2014 to recruit more farmers.

MnDOT would compensate farmers on a per acre basis for standing corn and a per lineal foot basis for strategically stacked bales or silage bags.

Typically, 12 rows of corn on the outside rows would be left standing to create a “living snow fence.” If created with 12 rows for a quarter of a mile stretch this results in one acre of coverage. The average compensation for standing corn is approximately $1,000 per acre.

The thought is that standing corn or other barriers like stacked hay will limit blowing snow on highways during the winter months, while also preventing snow drifts.

“Standing corn rows provide a unique opportunity to use a resource that is currently being grown adjacent to our highways to provide blowing snow control,” says Dan Gullickson, MnDOT’s snow control program coordinator. “Farmers play a key role in helping MnDOT quickly deliver preventative snow control treatments while reducing MnDOT’s snow and ice removal costs.”

Corn can be harvested by hand during the typical harvest season or can be harvested the following spring before planting.

 “The standing corn row program provides opportunities for leadership in, and service to, the community by helping keep local roads open to traffic during blowing snow events,” Gullickson says. “This program is a great example of the rural community coming together and making a difference during the winter driving season.”

Along Highway 169 near Belle Plaine, MnDOT was able to recruit farmers who left 4.55 miles of standing corn rows.

“Anyone who travels this highway regularly will tell you that it has improved over the last few years.” says Bruce Thompson, Shakopee truck station supervisor. “Once the program started, the farmers could see the difference and were soon on board, knowing it would help their own families and the rest of the traveling public.”

Gullickson adds that drifting in that area is almost non-existent because of the program. “We thank the local farmers who helped MnDOT’s snow control efforts by leaving standing corn rows along the highway.”

More than 3,700 problem snow sites have been identified by MnDOT.

Farmers and landowners who want more information about the standing corn row program can contact their local MnDOT district office. Local contact information can be found at mndot.gov.

Additional information about the program is at mndot.gov/environment/livingsnowfence/ or contact Gullickson directly at daniel.gullickson@state.mn.us or 651-366-3610.

More information about the program can be found in the video below:

 
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