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The cost to plant no-till corn with fertilizer is up 19.6% over the previous survey.

Chris Torres, Editor, American Agriculturist

February 28, 2023

2 Min Read
aerial view of a tractor planting a cornfield
BIG INCREASES: If you’re looking for a custom operator to plant your fields this growing season, get ready to shell out a lot more money. BanksPhotos/Getty Images

Still looking for custom-rate information for the coming growing season? University of Maryland Cooperative Extension has just released its custom farming rates, and not surprisingly, prices are up — way up in some cases.

The survey of 67 custom operators and farmers from Maryland and Delaware — conducted by mail and online last fall — shows some significant increases in overall costs of planting, harvesting and equipment expenses from the previous survey done in 2020. Here are some highlights:

  • corn planting, conventional with fertilizer, $25.90 per acre, up 44.5%

  • corn planting, conventional without fertilizer, $22.44 per acre, up 34.9%

  • no-till corn with fertilizer, $25.76 per acre, up 19.6%

  • no-till corn without fertilizer, $23.81 per acre, up 14.7%

  • conventional soybean planting, $24.18 per acre, up 20.6%

  • no-till soybean planting, $23.43 per acre, up 15.2%

  • small grain drilling, $23.43 per acre, up 9.9%

  • manure loading, $4.15 per ton, up 1.21%

  • manure spreading — solid, $18.50 per solid ton, up 91%

  • manure spreading — litter, $11.47 per litter ton, up 62.7%

  • manure hauling, $16.47 per ton, up 91.5%

  • corn combining, $37.57 per acre, up 9.88%

  • soybean combining, $37.48 per acre, up 7.3%

  • small grains combining, $37.81 per acre, up 8.4%

New York and Ohio released custom rate surveys late last year. The complete Maryland custom rates survey can be found at extension.umd.edu.

The rates include charges for machines, power, fuel, lube and labor. They do not include the costs of chemicals, seeds and other materials, with the exception of hay baling materials and where noted.

Tips for shopping or setting rates

Ohio State Extension recommends growers calculate their own costs before determining the custom rate to charge or pay. The University of Minnesota and Iowa State University have online tools that can help you calculate machinery costs.

The University of Maryland reminds growers that there are wide ranges with some operation charges. Variations may be because of lack of knowledge about charges and difference in location, topography, field size and shape, crop yields, soil conditions, weather conditions, work quality, equipment type and size, timeliness, or the ratio of available jobs to custom operators.

Crop budgeting information can be found at extension.umd.edu.

Penn State Cooperative Extension reminds growers that rates can vary greatly depending on size and shape of fields, crop condition, skill level of labor and other factors. Pennsylvania has not done a custom rate survey since 2016. However, Extension agents often point to areas outside the state as good references for growers.

About the Author(s)

Chris Torres

Editor, American Agriculturist

Chris Torres, editor of American Agriculturist, previously worked at Lancaster Farming, where he started in 2006 as a staff writer and later became regional editor. Torres is a seven-time winner of the Keystone Press Awards, handed out by the Pennsylvania Press Association, and he is a Pennsylvania State University graduate.

Torres says he wants American Agriculturist to be farmers' "go-to product, continuing the legacy and high standard (former American Agriculturist editor) John Vogel has set." Torres succeeds Vogel, who retired after 47 years with Farm Progress and its related publications.

"The news business is a challenging job," Torres says. "It makes you think outside your small box, and you have to formulate what the reader wants to see from the overall product. It's rewarding to see a nice product in the end."

Torres' family is based in Lebanon County, Pa. His wife grew up on a small farm in Berks County, Pa., where they raised corn, soybeans, feeder cattle and more. Torres and his wife are parents to three young boys.

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