Blowing and drifting snow on Minnesota's roadways is a transportation efficiency and safety concern. Establishing
standing corn rows and living snow fences improves driver visibility, road surface conditions, and has the potential
to lower costs of road maintenance as well as accidents attributed to blowing and drifting snow. It also has the
potential to sequester carbon and avoid the carbon emissions of snow removal operations. In recent years the
Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has paid farmers to leave standing corn rows to protect
identified snow problem roadways. They have paid farmers $1.50 per bushel above market price. With increasing
demand for corn to fuel the ethanol industry, paying $1.50 per bushel above market price may not be sufficient
incentive for leaving standing corn rows. Also, with MnDOT’s memorandum of understanding with USDA to plant
living snow fences through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), now is an opportune time to review
MnDOT’s annual payment structure to farmers and prepare a new one. This project has: 1) developed a calculator
to estimate payments for farmers that includes consideration of safety and snow removal cost savings; 2) estimated
potential income from carbon payments; 3) worked closely with MnDOT engineers and plow operators, estimated
the safety and snow removal costs and carbon emissions avoided by MnDOT through establishing living snow
fences; and 4) evaluated farmers’ willingness to establish living snow fences and identified farmers/landowners’
constraints to adoption. Data is provided to MnDOT to assist staff in its decision making related to their Living
Snow Fence Program.
University of Minnesota Extension; Minnesota Department of Transportation
Wyatt, Gary; Zamora, Diomy; Smith, David; Schroeder, Sierra; Paudel, Dinesh; Knight, Joe; Kilberg, Don; Current, Dean; Gullickson, Dan; Taff, Steve.
Economic and Environmental Costs and Benefits of Living Snow Fences: Safety, Mobility, and Transportation Authority Benefits, Farmer Costs, and Carbon Impacts.
Minnesota Department of Transportation.
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