Combine or leave it standing? That’s a legitimate question many Iowa farmers are considering this year, and it’s all in the name of public safety.
It’s called the Standing Corn Program, and it was created by the the Iowa Department of Transportation a few years back in an effort to alleviate problems with blowing snow over state highways. The Iowa DOT will pay farmers $5 a bushel for up to 16 rows of corn left in the field along a state highway.
“The ultimate goal is for public safety obviously … to help with the blowing, drifting, and the trouble spots like that,” said Craig Bargfrede, winter operations administrator for Iowa DOT’s Office of Maintenance. “The added benefits are wildlife habitats, reduction in soil erosion, the cornstalks against the snow which then provides the farmer with the added moisture in the spring time. From a traveling standpoint, again public safety, increased visibility, less of the freeze-thaw cycle on the roadway itself by not having that snow sit on the pavement.”
In 2015, the Iowa DOT had 86 agreements across the state. Bargfrede credits the steady increase in participants to the local DOT garage staff, getting out and talking to farmers and landowners about the benefits of the program. He anticipates the same amount of agreements in 2016, if not more.
“In many cases we have farmers who use it as opportunity to participate and then donate. They may have a local FFA or 4-H club who will come in, hand harvest the corn, and then the farmer just donates it to them as a fundraiser or project,” Bargfrede said. “That way in the spring he basically has to go out there with his tillage equipment and knock down the stalks and doesn’t have to worry about bringing the combine back out.”
For more information about the Iowa DOT Standing Corn Program, contact the local maintenance garage at the Iowa DOT.