It’s not a surprise Missouri is one of the major contributors to many of the world’s food sources. From livestock and grain to vegetables and fruits, among other commodities, the state is fortunate to have good land, growers and farmers to keep our economy strong and people fed.
The Missouri Department of Transportation is asking for help from our residents and businesses who produce and cultivate these commodities. The message is simple: please refrain from planting crops on the state right of way. “We work very closely with farmers and area residents to ensure the state right of way is maintained to meet or exceed standards necessary to keep it safe and free from erosion,” said MoDOT Maintenance and Traffic Engineer Jennifer Hinson, P.E.
Hinson went on to explain how planting onto the right of way, next to state-maintained highways, can cause problems. “We get several calls each year about drivers not being able to see at an intersection, and what we have discovered is that many times, it’s because crops have been planted far into our right of way, close or into ditches,” she explained. The crops, especially tall plants like corn or milo, create a sight distance issue for drivers at a stop sign, making it difficult for them to pull out safely.
Another reason it is important crops are not planted on the right of way is that it creates erosion, filling ditches next to the highway that have the purpose of keeping water off the road. “When we see the land that has been planted, we try to contact the landowner, but that is not always successful, and also what we have learned is many times this land has been rented out to another farmer, so it is difficult to get directly in touch with the renter,” she explained.
Hinson said when encroachment is discovered and unsuccessful attempts have been made at communication, there is no choice but to cut down the crops, especially when it involves sight distance. “We also set out flags to mark the right of way line when we notice encroachment,” she explained.
“We just want everyone to be safe and to reduce the amount of erosion in our ditches, which causes extra work for our crews,” she added.
She encourages area residents to contact MoDOT customer service at 1-888 ASK MODOT (1-888-275-6636) if they notice any crops that have been planted on the right of way. “While there are no specific legal ramifications for this type of encroachment, it can have an impact on safety, so we hope by making people aware of the problem, we can eliminate or at least reduce it,” she said.