Rates for custom farm work stay steady from 2017

December 21, 2018

Many farm operators provide some type of custom work or use of farm machinery to other farmers during the growing season, and payment is usually made following the harvest.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to arrive at a fair custom rate. Iowa State University releases its annual Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey each February, based on a survey of custom operators, farm managers, and ag lenders on what they expect custom rates to be for various farm operations to be for the coming year. This is probably the most widely used information in the Upper Midwest.

The 2018 survey includes farm custom rates for typical tillage, planting, and harvesting practices, as well as custom farming rates. It also includes average custom rates for less typical practices and services. All listed custom rates in the Iowa survey results include fuel and labor, unless listed as rental rates or otherwise specified. The 2018 survey is available at www.extension.iastate.edu/AGDm/crops/pdf/a3-10.pdf.

Even though fuel prices increased the past year, the availability of more farm operators to do custom work kept rates close to those in 2017. Most custom rates for tillage, planting and harvest operations are listed at no increase or down slightly, compared to 2017. The 2018 custom farming rates for corn and soybean production declined slightly from a year earlier. In addition to the higher fuel costs, labor expenses also increased slightly. The cost for new and used machinery also remained fairly stable in 2018.

The University of Minnesota released its “Machinery Cost Estimates” in May 2018. This summary looks at use-related (operating) cost of farm machinery, as well as overhead (ownership) costs. The use-related expenses include fuel, repairs and maintenance, labor and depreciation. Overhead costs include interest, insurance and housing, which are calculated based on pre-set formulas. This can serve as a good guide to help farmers estimate their true cost of farm machinery ownership. This publication is available at www.cffm.umn.edu.

Check grain bins

Most Midwest corn and soybean farmers have completed the 2018 harvest and now need to pay attention to grain that is stored in on-farm bins for potential storage problems.

Because of low prices, much more corn and soybeans are stored this year. It’s likely that most of the crop was placed into bins at a variety of outside temperatures — some went in when it was warm, some when it was quite cool. This temperature difference can lead to moisture in the bin, which could cause grain spoilage.

Farm operators should run aeration fans periodically to equalize the grain bin temperatures, which will help prevent moisture from forming. It is also very important to check grain bins on a regular basis for any potential storage issues, and to address those issues promptly. Otherwise, there can be considerable damage to grain that is in storage, resulting in a significant financial loss to the farm operator.

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