Farmers may benefit from corn program

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Farmers who live along roads in southeastern Minnesota where a lot of drifting and blowing snow collects during the winter have an incentive to assist the Department of Transportation this year.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation offices in Rochester and Owatonna have offered to pay farmers to leave two strips of corn, eight rows deep on the edges of their fields until the end of March so the snow catches on the cornstalks, instead of blowing onto the road.

The program, which MnDOT refers to as "standing corn row snow fencing," is far more beneficial to drivers than it is to the department.

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"It saves us a little bit of money, but more importantly, it keeps the roads safer and clearer. It's really a safety issue to keep that road open and drift-free," says Robert Slater, a forester for MnDOT District 6.

The program has been in place for at least five years, but MnDOT "never (has) as many people take part in it as we would like," says Slater.

The price for the cornstalks has been set at $2.75 a bushel, but Slater says "we're just coming to the realization that corn prices are going way up from that."

Slater says MnDOT offered that price last year and it was higher than the selling price of corn at that time.

However, the price has risen dramatically since then.

"Most of us aren't from farms … it was a little bit of a shock that the price has gone so far up. We're a little afraid we're not going to get anyone."

However, Slater adds, "the corn itself can be handpicked. We're just interested in the stalks."

Only people who live in areas with a lot of drifting and blowing snow during the winter can participate in the program, but those that have are happy.

"One person was interested because so many people got stuck in the snow in front of his fields and he got tired of having to drag them out of the drifts all the time," says Slater.

When the farmer left the cornstalks up, he didn't have to help a single motorist all winter.

MnDOT's Rochester and Owatonna offices cover Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Wabasha and Winona counties.

Anyone in those areas who is interested in the standing corn row snow fencing program should contact Slater at (507) 529-6145.

Amanda L. Rohde can be reached at 434-2214 or by e-mail at