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Franklin County Program Uses Cornstalks To Keep Snow Off Roads

dying cornstalks
Alan Turkus
Flickr Creative Commons
The Cornstalks for Snow Fence program in Franklin County pays farmers to not clear cornstalks along certain roads to control snow and ice.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners votes this week on a measure that would pay farmers not to cut down some of their cornstalks. The plant material can serve as a natural barrier to keep snow off of roadways.

Franklin County’s Cornstalks for Snow Fence program has been around for almost two decades, and it pays farmers to leave an acre’s worth of cornstalks standing along certain roadways.  At $50 an acre, County Engineer Cornell Robertson says it’s much cheaper than the alternative: setting up and taking down plastic barriers as well as using salt or other treatments through the winter.

“All that together would cost approximately 1.5 times the cost of the cornstalks for snow fence program,” Robertson says.

“So instead of $30,000,” Robertson explains, “for the same amount of snow and ice control, it would be $45,000."

The board will consider whether to set aside $30,000 for the project at its general session Tuesday.

Although the cornstalks program is cost-effective, Robertson says it doesn’t make sense everywhere.

"In other words this works only in the rural parts of the county where there are farm fields and where the corn has been placed in the downwind side of the prevailing winds."