Checking in on farm custom rates

By Mike Rankin

Each spring we take a tour around the country to see what’s going on in the world of farm custom rate surveys. These custom rate guides are popular documents in those states that continue to do the survey legwork. During my county extension agent days, questions regarding how much to charge for various field operations were second only to questions concerning how much to charge for land rent.

As is the case each year, several states have updated their information from the past year. Conversely, some states have discontinued their survey efforts due to budget cuts. Only a few states survey custom operators every year (for example, Iowa); many have gone to doing a survey every two or four years. In some cases, it is the state’s agriculture statistics service that leads the effort, while in others it is the land-grant university.

The methods by which the surveys are completed vary somewhat from state to state. Sometimes fuel is included, and in other cases it is not. Some states report more detail than others; for example, there may be separate line items for different large bale sizes. Many are based on actual farmer and custom operator surveys, but a few states derive their charges from data compiled in 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 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 offer some help).

Below is a list of custom rate guides for various states. Only states that have updated rates since 2013 are included. Missouri was added back to the list this year with an updated survey. If you know of a state that I missed, please feel free to contact me (mrankin@hayandforage.com) and I will get it added. Some states may be in the process of updating their survey but have not yet posted results.

State custom rate surveys as of March 2018

State

Year

State

Year

Colorado

2017

Nebraska

2016

Idaho

2014

North Dakota

2016

Indiana

2017

Ohio

2016

Iowa

2018

Oklahoma

2016

Kansas

2018

Pennsylvania

2017

Kentucky

2018

Tennessee

2013

Maryland

2017

Texas

2016

Michigan

2017

Virginia

2016

Mississippi

2013

Wisconsin

2017

Missouri

2016