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Do your homework on custom rates

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GET A FAIR PRICE: Before you shake hands on a custom planting or harvesting agreement, make sure you’re getting a fair price for services you need or are providing.
High fuel and input prices help drive custom farming rates higher.

As input prices have shot up, so have custom farming rates across the region.

New York and Ohio have released custom farming rates for 2022 based on grower and custom operator surveys done over the past year. These surveys can be useful reference guides for finding good custom operator rates next spring, or for setting rates where you farm, but keep in mind that custom rates can vary greatly depending on your location and the type of operation.

New York’s 2022 custom rate survey, compiled by Justin Tucker at Cornell Extension Franklin County, shows big increases for conventional and no-till corn planting, and combining and chopping.

Here are some highlights from the survey. All figures include the price of fuel. This survey uses the June 2022 diesel fuel price of $5.80 a gallon. We’ve also included the amount of increase compared to the previous survey done in 2020:

  • Corn planting: $32 an acre, up from $23 an acre
  • No-till corn planting: $35 an acre, up from $25 an acre
  • Corn combining: $45-$50 an acre, up from $42 an acre
  • Small grain combining: $45-$50 an acre, up from $35 an acre
  • Soybean combining: $45-$50 an acre, up from $40 an acre
  • Mowing: $18 an acre, up from $17 an acre
  • Raking: $14 an acre, up from $12 an acre
  • Tedding: $11 an acre, up from $10 an acre
  • Bale pickup: $1 a bale, up from 85 cents a bale
  • Silage chopping (tractor and chopper): $100-$125 an acre, up from $90 an acre
  • Silage truck: $75-$100 an hour, up from $65-$85 an hour.

Ohio rates

The Ohio Farm Custom Rates 2022 survey — based off a statewide survey of 223 farmers, custom operators, farm managers and landowners in early 2022 — also shows increases over the previous survey, ranging from $2-$3 an acre more for tilled corn planting; $4-$5 an acre more for no-till corn planting; and $5-$7 an acre more for combining.  

However, since the report was completed in July, it may not accurately reflect the spike in diesel prices as the approximate price of diesel fuel during the survey period ranged from $4.50-$5.25 a gallon for off-road (farm) usage.

Here are some highlights from the Ohio survey. These prices are averages, and include implement and tractor, if required; all variable machinery costs such as fuel, oil, lube and twine; and labor:

Planting

  • Tilled corn planting, 30-inch rows: $22.50 an acre, range from $17.46-$27.54 an acre
  • No-till corn planting, 30-inch rows: $24.40 an acre, range from $17.49-$31.31 an acre
  • Corn planting with fertilizer: $23.60 an acre, range from $16.06-$31.14 an acre
  • No-till corn with fertilizer: $25 an acre, range from $18.12-$31.88 an acre
  • Variable-rate corn planting: $25.80 an acre, range from $19.50-$32.10 an acre
  • Variable-rate no-till corn: $28.10 an acre, range from $21.57-$34.63 an acre
  • Soybean planting (15- or 30-inch): $22.40 an acre, range from $16.21-$28.59 an acre
  • No-till soybean: $23.40 an acre, range from $17.11-$29.69 an acre
  • Variable-rate soybean: $24 an acre, range from $18.82-$29.18 an acre
  • Variable-rate no-till soybeans: $23.90 an acre, range from $19.39-$28.41 an acre

Harvest

  • Corn: $38.80 an acre, range from $26.37-$51.23 an acre
  • Soybeans: $37.10 an acre, range from $25.47-$48.73 an acre
  • Wheat: $35.50 an acre, range from $24.73-$46.27 an acre
  • Silage (chop, haul, fill): $10.50 per ton, range from $7.30-$13.70 per ton
  • Silage (chop only): $8.20 per ton, range from $6.06-$10.34 per ton

Tips for shopping or setting rates

Ohio State Extension recommends growers calculate their own costs before determining the custom rate to charge or pay. The University of Minnesota and Iowa State University have online tools that can help you calculate machinery costs.

University of Maryland Extension is finalizing its custom rate survey and will be putting out its results sometime in January or February.

Penn State Cooperative Extension reminds growers that rates can vary greatly depending on size and shape of fields, crop condition, skill level of labor, and other factors. Pennsylvania has not done a custom rate survey since 2016. However, Extension agents often point to areas outside the state as good references for growers.

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