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Taking on more land is opportunity, challenge

Tom J. Bechman combine harvesting corn
THINK IT THROUGH: The panelists believe adding acreage is feasible, but a big question mark is how many acres can be harvested with one combine.
Profit Planners: What changes would you have to make if you took on more acres?

A neighbor is retiring and wants us to farm his 750 acres at a fair rental price. We can use his grain storage facility. We farm 3,000 acres, and that would be a big jump. It’s just my dad and me with a 24-row planter and one combine. What adjustments would we need to make?

The Profit Planners panel includes David Erickson, farmer, Altona, Ill.; Mark Evans, Purdue University Extension, Putnam County, Ind.; Jim Luzar, landowner and retired Purdue Extension educator, Greencastle, Ind.; and Steve Myers, farm manager, Busey Ag Resources, LeRoy, Ill.

Erickson: You may be able to expand with little additional equipment. Study the time required to complete necessary work, and determine the time available to complete these tasks. Look for ways to increase efficiencies without sacrificing performance. Are there tasks you could hire completed? Would some part-time help be valuable? This is a manageable increase in acreage that must come without dramatically increasing costs, or revenue growth is lost to expenses that increase cost of production.

Evans: If you are already no-tilling, this will help cover more ground. You may need to rely on an ag vendor for spraying until you feel comfortable that this arrangement is longer term. Use of storage is a huge blessing. You are at or surpassing what typically is generally feasible for one to run through a single combine. Consider your combine situation where you may upgrade to a larger machine. Perhaps to get started, you could help yourself by going slightly heavier on bean acres, so you have more flexibility. Seeking a person to help would be good. Maybe the neighbor would still like to help a little.

Luzar: This opportunity requires looking at your whole farming system, from labor commitment to drying and storage capacity. Several questions need to be addressed, as well as reviewing enterprise budget projections. Sometimes expansion can generate stress on what was a smoothly operated system. Can you expand planting and harvest windows with agronomic adjustments? The planter could be less of a concern than the combine. Storage concerns would impact harvest operations with additional grain flow.

Only you and your father understand how pressed you are in the spring and fall. Would this be an opportunity to bring in additional part-time labor? That would require supervisory effort. Do you farm acres that are not as profitable and can be culled from the operation to make way for the new acres? You and your father need to enumerate what aspects are working well for you now and discuss how the new acreage would fit. I would not want to expand if it will create pressure points in the farming system that are not easy fixes.

Myers: The addition of these acres may stretch your existing “big pieces” to the edge. Adjustments may not be just in iron, but perhaps with labor, and you should identify your limiting factors. Example: secure a second planter and run corn and soybean planting at the same time, or secure more labor to run the existing planter more hours per day. Example: a second combine with the same cart or the same combine and add to your ability to move grain away. Example: fewer bins and more direct out-of-field selling. Not knowing your situation, it could be a combination of all. It’s a great problem to have.

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