Custom Rate Survey Shows Average Costs of Common Farming Practices

Many Iowa farmers hire some custom machine work in their farm business or perform custom work for others. Others rent machinery or perform other services.

In order to help producers and custom operators examine the market, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach publishes the Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey.

This year’s survey, published in March, includes 122 responses and nearly 3,400 custom rates for tasks related to tillage, planting and seeding, spraying, harvesting, farm labor and more.

Most custom rates saw an increase of 3-10%, according to Alejandro Plastina, associate professor in economics and extension economist at Iowa State, and one of the authors of the report.

The cost for labor increased almost 14%, reflecting the challenges of a tight labor market nationwide.

Vertical tillage averages $19.30 per acre, with a range of $12 to $31 per acre. Tandem disking costs an average of $16.20 an acre and heavy or offset disking costs an average of $18.60 per acre.

Custom planting ranges from $11 to $40 per acre, depending on the type of planter and setup. Combining corn shows an average of $36.75 per acre and combining soybeans averages $36.05 per acre.

Plastina said some costs have already trended higher, due to increases in diesel and fuel prices since the survey was issued. The survey assumed diesel prices would be $3.33 a gallon in 2022, based on forecasts from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“The survey may lag increases in diesel prices and other inputs in some areas,” said Plastina. “This means that for custom farming practices that involve these inputs, the cost may be even higher.”

Plastina said the information in the survey is meant to be a starting point for farmers and agribusiness to engage in conversations and negotiations.

“The survey is not meant to set the rate for a particular practice or operator,” he said. “This is an opinion survey and represents the responses of participants.”

Plastina said he appreciates the information that participants provide, although he noted there are fewer responses each year. In the future, if responses fall below five per cost item, that item will be removed.

This survey is only possible with the participation of Iowa farmers, custom operators and farm managers. To join the survey list for 2023, email the survey authors.

For more information, Plastina can be reached at 515-294-6160 or [email protected], and Ann Johanns can be reached at 515-337-2766 or [email protected].


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