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2016 Custom farm rates hold steady

Due to the high cost of investment in farm machinery, an ever-increasing number of farm operators are hiring other farm operators to provide some or all of their machinery resources for their farm operation. This is especially true with new and younger farm operators, and with children who decide to start farming with their parents. Also, some land investors are choosing to operate a farm themselves rather than cash renting the land to another farm operator. In that case, the landowner is generally hiring a farm operator to provide necessary tillage, planting and harvesting operations under a custom farming agreement. Some farm operators also hire specific farm operations through a custom arrangement with another farm operator, such as combining or hay baling. Many farm operators negotiate these types of custom rate and custom farming arrangements in the spring.

As a result of the decline in fuel prices in the past year, average 2016 custom rates for farm work have remained steady or declined slightly, compared to 2015 rates. Most custom rates for tillage, planting, and harvest operations in 2016 are listed at no increase to 2 percent below the rates for similar operations in 2015. The 2016 custom farming rates for corn and soybean production declined about 5 percent compared to a year earlier. In addition to the decline in fuel costs compared to 2015 levels, repair and labor expenses increased slightly from the previous year, thus keeping most custom rates at a steady pace. The cost for new and used machinery in 2016 has remained fairly stable.

These results are based on the annual Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey that is coordinated and analyzed by Iowa State University. The survey sampled 182 custom operators and farm managers on what they expected 2016 custom farm rates to be for various farm operations. The survey summary lists the average custom rate and the range for various tillage, planting, fertilizer and chemical application, grain harvesting and forage harvesting functions on the farm. The survey also includes many miscellaneous farming practices, lists average machine rental rates for some equipment and includes a formula for estimating average machinery rental rates. The survey also lists average custom farming rates for corn, soybeans and wheat. Over the years, the average custom rates for farm operations in southern and western Minnesota has been very close to the average Iowa custom rates.

Average 2016 farm custom rates for some typical tillage, planting and harvesting practices, as well as custom farming rates, are also listed. The complete 2016 Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey for all farming practices is available online (pdf).

All listed custom rates in the Iowa Survey results include fuel, labor, repairs, depreciation, insurance, and interest, unless listed as rental rates or otherwise specified. The average price for diesel fuel was assumed to be $2.00 per gallon. A fuel price increase of $.50 per gallon would cause most custom rates to increase by approximately five percent. These average rates are only meant to be a guide for custom rates, as actual custom rates charged may vary depending on continued increase in fuel costs, availability of custom operators, timeliness, field size, etc.


Select 2016 custom farm rates

Following are the median (adjusted average) custom rates for some common farming practices for 2016, based on the Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey.

Custom Farming Rates (Includes tillage, planting and harvesting costs)

  • Corn: $130 per acre  (Range: $70-190.50) 
  • Soybeans: $115 per acre  (Range: $60-170)
  • Small Grain: $92.50 per acre  (Range: $80-110)


  • Moldboard plow: $19 per acre
  • Chisel plow: $16 per acre
  • V-Ripper (deep tillage): $20 per acre
  • Field cultivator: $14.10 per acre
  • Tandem disk: $14.80 per acre
  • Row cultivator: $14.50 per acre
  • Chopping cornstalks: $11.90 per acre

Planting and spraying

  • Planter with attachments: $20 per acre
  • Planter without attachments: $18 per acre
  • No-till planter: $20 per acre
  • Soybean drill: $15.50 per acre
  • Grain drill: $16 per acre
  • Crop spraying (broadcast): $6.50 per acre

Harvesting grain

  • Corn combine: $35 per acre ($39.50 with chopper head, $50 per acre with grain cart, truck)
  • Soybean combine: $34 per acre ($38.35 with draper head, $47.00 per acre with grain cart truck)
  • Small-grain combine: $30 per acre
  • Corn grain cart (in field): $6.25 per acre
  • Soybean grain cart (in field): $6 per acre
  • Hauling grain (5 mi. or less): 10¢ per bushel
  • Hauling grain (5-25 mi.): 15¢ per bushel
  • Grain auger use (on-farm): 6¢ per bushel

Harvesting forages

  • Windrowing hay: $14.05 per acre
  • Hay baling (small square bales): 70¢ per bale
  • Hay baling (large square bales): $10 per bale
  • Hay baling (large round bales): $10.50 per bale ($12.50 per bale with wrap)
  • Cornstalk baling (large bales): $12 per bale ($13.50 per bale with wrap)
  • Haylage chopping: $9 per ton
  • Silage chopping: $7 per ton
TAGS: Soybeans
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