DOT offers farmers payout for corn, hay snow fences
The Iowa Department of Transportation is offering $5.10 per bushel for farmers who leave corn standing to act as a snow fence against drifting snow this winter.
"The ultimate goal with this program is public safety," said Craig Bargfrede, winter operations administrator for the Iowa DOT. "We have found over the years when farmers leave standing corn it allows us the ability to get the roadway system back to normal driving conditions faster with less materials. It reduces blowing and drifting that increases visibility which ultimately equates to safer winter driving conditions for the public."
Currently, there is only one area in Clay County paying farmers to leave corn for a snow fence.
"There are some corn snow fences east of Spencer on U.S. Highway 18 over by Ruthven getting into Palo Alto County by mile marker 95 to 97," said Bill Boles, garbage operations assistant for Spirit Lake, Emmetsburg, Spencer, Storm Lake and Cherokee. "There is a big chunk of corn we left there. Other areas we will take the snow and make snow ridges which means the DOT uses piles of snow in the farmers fields to act as a snow fence."
Boles said there are other methods used to make snow fences on roadways with less blowing and drifting snow. The DOT also pays farmers $1 per linear foot to leave hay bales along highways with drifting and blowing snow problems.
"It is really our only way," Boles said. "There is nothing we can do as a business to stop the snow if we don't get something out there in time we are really at the farmer's discretion. Some farmers don't want to do that because it takes a long time for the snow made snow fences to thaw and they can't get out there as soon as they want in the spring."
The corn snow fences reportedly offers other benefits for farmers.
"It benefits the farmer in the fact that it reduces the erosion, increases soil moisture in the spring time and provides a habitat for wildlife," Bargfrede said. "It is also a benefit in some cases, the farmers will donate the corn to an organization such as an FFA chapter or 4-H chapter and the organizations will come out in the spring and hand pick the corn. Not all farmers do that, but I know a few that support their local organizations that way."
The Iowa DOT is offering $240,000 for snow fences this year which is an increase from last year by $20,000. The program has been in effect for more than 20 years, but has been increasing in popularity statewide in recent years.
Residents hoping to learn more about the program can call the Iowa DOT at 515-239-1101.