Iowa DOT looking for partners in standing corn program

Sign and truckWith the derecho, drought, and other negative impacts on Iowa farming in 2020, many farmers will have standing corn left in their fields. The Iowa Department of Transportation is looking to partner with farmers who have fields along state or U.S. highways for our Standing Corn Snow Fence Program.

Over the last 20+ years, the program has helped improve wintertime mobility and highway safety using partnerships with dozens of farmers statewide. The program used corn that can be left in fields during the winter to serve as snow fences that slow down or stop snow from blowing and drifting across the road. More recently, this cooperative effort has included using round hay bales as snow fences, as well.

In exchange for leaving the corn in the field or moving round bales into place, we are contracting with farmers to pay $5.50 per bushel for leaving six to 24 rows standing. The typical payment amount is $2 above the statewide average corn price on Aug. 1. For round bales, we pay landowners $1 per linear foot. The landowner agrees to leave the bales intact in the field throughout the winter.

Snow in rows
Craig Bargfrede, the Iowa DOT’s winter operations administrator, said, “Research from the Strategic Highway Safety Program shows that it costs 100 times more to plow snow than to trap it with a fence, so the return on investment with these partnerships is significant.”

While the financial benefits are good, the program also provides a connection between our area garage staff and local landowners. Our field forces and these local landowners know their areas well. They share ideas and collaborate on road locations where standing corn fences or round bales would be the most beneficial to help reduce the amount of blowing and drifting snow on Iowa’s roadways.  

IMG_5476While we try to work with farmers in advance of planting to come to an agreement, we’re also willing to look at a contract prior to harvest. Bargfrede said, “This year especially we’re aware that there may be some corn that is left in the field, we’d like to partner with those farmers to utilize the corn as snow fence and reimburse them for that.”

In addition to the financial benefits to farmers, leaving standing corn in the fields can:

  • Keep roads open to improve accessibility between farmsteads, towns, and services.
  • Provide wildlife habitat.
  • Increase soil moisture in the end rows.
  • Help control soil erosion.

Once the corn has served its purpose all winter, the farmer can remove the corn how they see fit. While that may cause a little extra work in the spring, the farmers who participate see the benefits of a clearer, safer roadway all winter long.

In addition to standing corn or round bales, we work with farmers to install permanent and temporary snow fence or living snow fence in the form of trees, bushes, or other plants in some areas.

If you live in an area that you think might benefit from the standing corn or round bale program, please contact your local maintenance garage. Locations and contact information is available online at

Yes, I'll send you a better copy.

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Mike Delaney
Izaak Walton League Conservation Director

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