NEVADA, Iowa -- For over two decades now the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) and farmers team up to help keep the state’s roadways clear with help from none other than corn.
Farmers who have fields along state highways in open and flat areas leave a portion of their corn in the fields during the winter to basically serve as a natural fence to help prevent blowing and drifting snow.
This is a part of the Iowa Standing Corn Snow Fence Program and recently the DOT has expanded the program adding round bales and manufactured snow fences to protect travelers. The program is pretty much a win-win situation. Not only does the DOT have to use less resources on some rural roadways, but also farmers get paid the statewide average cash price plus two dollars for the crops they leave standing. But that's not to go without saying that the farmers are going above and beyond their regular duties to help Iowans out on the roads.
“We are obviously in competition with those types of situations where we are dealing with ethanol plants, we are dealing with areas where grain prices are higher. For farmers, it is a little extra burden on them. They have to bring the equipment back out in the spring when they are more focused on planting. The other thing is obviously mother nature. With the planting season, the harvest season got quite extended, so the ability to get their crop in in a timely fashion, get all those agreements in place, is always a struggle,” Craig Bargfrede, Iowa DOT’s winter operations administrator said.
After more than 20 years the program continues to grow with more farmers getting involved thanks to the DOT garage staff promoting in trouble spots that are prone to blowing and drifting snow.
“Last year at the end of the season we had just shy of 75 miles worth of standing snow fence so we are right on par with that we did last year,” Bargfrede said. “Last year was the most we had done in the history of the program. So it's just been steadily increasing.”