Custom farm work is big business, and those who do it have many of the same concerns as any other group of professionals.

That's why Carey Vanderloop, of Vanderloop Equipment, Brillion, WI, suggested that custom operators form a state organization. Better communication among custom operators would help them deal with legal, financial, employee, accounts receivable and other issues, he figures.

“I think harvesters can learn a lot from each other,” says Vanderloop.

It looks like his suggestion soon will become reality. A steering committee of custom harvesters and extension agents met recently in Green Bay to lay the groundwork for an organization. Tentatively named Wisconsin Custom Operators, the group expects to hold its first meeting in February 2002. The meeting and educational sessions may be part of a joint gathering with the Wisconsin Forage Council and a recently formed state custom manure haulers organization.

While most of the early interest is from forage harvesters, Wisconsin Custom Operators will be for people who do all types of farm work for hire. The organizers see strength in numbers, and custom grain harvesters, for example, deal with many of the same issues as forage harvesters.

The primary organizers are Vanderloop; Stuart Sorenson of O & S Harvesting, Bonduel; and Doug Sutter, Brown County extension agent.

Sorenson wants custom harvesters to work together to reduce the number of non-payments.

“That's probably my biggest concern,” he says.

Too often, says Sorenson, a client doesn't pay, then hires a different custom harvester the following year and doesn't pay that one, either.

He hopes that members of the organization would agree not to work for any client who owes money to another member. He also wants more consistency in rates and employee wages, and perhaps a standardized custom contract.

Sutter will serve as a facilitator for the group. The past three years, he and several other northeastern Wisconsin extension agents have put on day-long educational conferences for custom operators.

“The custom harvesters were getting bigger and running up against some concerns,” he says. “At the same time, dairymen were contacting us, wondering if they were getting their crops processed correctly. It was a communications tool to make sure everybody was on the same page.”

Sutter sees a growing need for a custom operator organization.

“It's a service-oriented group of people who are here to stay,” he says. “They play an integral role in our dairy industry, and both groups have to prosper if either is going to survive.”

For more information or to sign up for membership, call Sutter (920-391-4612), Sorenson (888-758-2467) or Kevin Jarek, Outagamie County extension agent (920-832-5119).