In my former extension life, it was not unusual to receive a call from somebody wanting to know the “going rate” for (fill in the blank). Maybe it was baling, or tillage, or loaning a neighbor a tractor. Whatever the case, I was always thankful that our state’s agriculture statistics service did a custom rate survey. It not only kept me from guessing, but it was also good to know that it was based on real numbers from farmers currently providing the service.
With the slashing of agency budgets, some states have discontinued their custom rate survey efforts, while others have taken the approach of doing a survey every three or four years. In some cases, an individual in the state’s university system has taken over the duty.
The means by which the surveys are done vary somewhat from state to state. In some cases the charge includes fuel, while in others it does not. Some states report more detail than others; for example, there may be separate line items for different large bale sizes. Most are based on actual farmer surveys, but a few states derive their charges on results from surrounding states.
Most states cite the range of reported charges for a particular operation and the average charge. In addition, some states break out survey results by regions; others just offer a state average. Users need to keep in mind that values are derived from a variety of individual situations — new and old equipment, large and small equipment, and so forth.
Finally, keep in mind that custom rates are usually higher than actual machinery costs. This has to be the case if a profit is to be made. If you’re looking for insight on actual costs to operate machinery, the University of Minnesota is usually recognized as providing the gold standard with their “Machinery Cost Estimates” publication that is updated each year (Illinois and Iowa State also offers some help).
Below is a linked list of custom rate guides for various states. Only states that have updated rates since 2012 are included. I’ve probably missed a few; if that’s the case, please feel free to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will get them added. Some states are in the process of doing a new rate survey.