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Use this information as a starting point to find a fair rate for various custom farming operations.

Tom J. Bechman, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

May 1, 2023

2 Min Read
corn planter in field
WHAT’S IT WORTH? How much should you charge someone to plant your corn? On the flip side, how much are you willing to pay? Tom J. Bechman

A neighbor helped you finish planting corn because he has fewer acres and drier soils. Together, you decided you would pay him the going custom rate for planting for the acres he covered. How do you determine that rate?

Michael Langemeier, Purdue Extension agricultural economist, says the Purdue custom rates survey is a good place to start. It was just updated for 2023, relying on survey responses from 81 volunteer participants.

“People do custom work for various reasons, like helping their neighbor in a pinch,” Langemeier says. “So, what people charge may not include all true costs of ownership. If you are custom farming for a living, make sure you cover all direct and indirect costs of ownership.”

table showing Indiana custom farming rates for planting, tillage

Custom rate example

Find the complete 2023 custom rates survey results online. Here is how to interpret the custom rate table, using the corn planting scenario as an example:

No-till or conventional? For this example, look at no-till. Those rates tend to be slightly higher, Langemeier says.

Number of respondents. The larger the number of people who provided information, the more representative the rate may be for a given area — Indiana, in this case. Whenever more than 30 people respond, in the complete table online, Langemeier provides a range to show the variation in answers provided. For no-till corn, 32 people responded. The range was $15.36 to $28.62 per acre.

Current average rate. Based on the table, the average rate for planting no-till corn is $21.99 per acre, or about $22 per acre. The rate for conventional corn is $19.19 per acre.

Change in rate. Has the rate changed over time? Yes. Check the column for average rates from the same Purdue custom rates survey for 2017. In 2017, the average rate for no-tilling corn was $17.77 per acre. That’s just under a 25% increase in six years.

The rate for field-cultivating in the ’23 survey averaged $15.58 per acre. That’s just over 20% higher than in 2017, at $12.86 per acre.

Read more about:

Conventional Tillage

About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman is editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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