Our annual look at 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 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, custom rates are usually higher than actual machinery costs. This has to be 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. If you know of a state that was missed, please feel free to contact me (mrankin@hayandforage.com) and it will get 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 2019

State

Year

State

Year

Colorado

2018

Nebraska

2018

Idaho

2014

New York

2018

Indiana

2017

North Dakota

2016

Iowa

2019

Ohio

2018

Kansas

2018

Oklahoma

2018

Kentucky

2018

Pennsylvania

2017

Maryland

2019

Tennessee

2013

Michigan

2018

Texas

2018

Mississippi

2013

Virginia

2016

Missouri

2016

Wisconsin

2017