Fall arrives Thursday and the Iowa Department of Transportation is already looking ahead to winter by signing farmers up for the Standing Corn Program.
Scott Suhr, the DOT’s district transportation planner, based in Atlantic, explains how it works.
“We actually have this program where we pay farmers to leave corn in their field,” Suhr says. “The corn that’s left in the field in drifting areas holds the snow back from the roadway and has a benefit to the DOT and to the motorist by keeping the snow off the road.”
The program has been around some 15 years. The agency also pays farmers $5 for each bushel of corn left in the field. Once spring arrives, farmers are free to harvest the corn. There is a second installment of the program that involves installing snow fences.
Suhr says, “If we have drifting areas along certain highways, you can put up snow fence and we’ll pay the farmers to put that fence up, I think it’s a dollar a foot that we pay out for that.” The program makes the DOT’s work more efficient.
“Some of the winters we have in Iowa, you can get a lot of blowing snow and if you have this eight or ten rows of corn that’s holding that snow that’s drifting back from the roadway, then, motorists don’t have to deal with it or our maintenance crews,” Suhr says. “It also helps us clean up these winter storms a lot quicker.”
To qualify, the unpicked corn rows must be nearest to the road and the DOT will only compensate farmers for up to 16 rows. There’s no official deadline date for farmers to join, but he says they like to have all the information ready by the time harvest starts — by the first or second week of October.
(By Jordan Armstrong, KSIB, Creston)