Sign up now for standing corn row program

Published 9:30 am Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is interested in talking with southeastern Minnesota farmers who are willing to leave a minimum of six rows of corn stalks standing through the winter to earn payment and help reduce the amount of snow blowing onto roads.

Springtime is a good time for farmers to connect with MnDOT to learn about the program and determine if it works for them and if they are in a location where MnDOT needs snow protection. Additionally, MnDOT can help coordinate with farmers to look at programs that assist in planting pollinator vegetation, which provides benefits to pollinators and complements the results of standing corn rows.

The standing corn rows are part of a MnDOT program started about 15 years ago that pays farmers to leave corn stalks up in the winter. The corn rows break the wind’s force, causing the snow to collect around the corn rows instead of drifting onto the roads. The rows improve driver visibility, road surface conditions and lower costs of road maintenance.

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Payments are based on a per acre basis using a University of Minnesota calculator tool to determine fair compensation that factors in yield, production costs and inconvenience factors.

MnDOT is looking for fields on the north and west sides of state highways and interstates where drifting is a problem.

Strategically-placed standing corn rows improve driver visibility during white out conditions and improve road surface conditions. This assists MnDOT in keeping the roads safer for the traveling public and saves money, especially in fuel costs.

“Standing corn rows help improve driver visibility, reduce accidents and reduce the need for snow plowing,” said Shannon Wait, coordinator of the MnDOT District 6 program in Rochester. “Snow fences also decrease the potential of ice forming on the pavement.”

Effective corn rows need to be about 200 feet from the highway centerline. Agreements generally require that farmers leave six to 16 rows of corn in various arrangements until the end of March. Farmers may coordinate with nonprofit groups, such as 4-H or Future Farmers of America, to hand pick the corn to salvage the crop as long as the corn stalks are left in good condition. Farm operators decide whether they want a nonprofit organization to handpick their corn and they coordinate with them.

The standing corn program is a one-year program. Anyone living in Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha or Winona counties who is interested in the program may contact Shannon Wait at MnDOT at 507-286-7681 or visit