Iowa State Releases Results Of Its Annual Farm Custom Rate Costs Survey


Many Iowa farmers continue to hire at least some of their fieldwork and livestock work to be done by others, and new data from a popular survey provides ranges and averages of what is being paid.

The “2021 Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey,” conducted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, covers the amounts charged and paid for common crop and livestock services. Tillage, planting, harvesting, manure hauling and livestock transportation are all included, along with dozens of other tasks and data points.

The publication is highlighted in the March edition of the Ag Decision Maker, along with updates on county-level corn and soybean yields, and a farm bill crop payment estimator for 2021-2022.

Compared to last year, most custom rates saw a decline except for the cost of farm labor, according to Alejandro Plastina, associate professor in economics and extension economist at Iowa State University.

“It’s a reflection of the profitability situation in farming,” said Plastina, who sent 361 surveys by the U.S. Postal Service in February and 198 by email. The results were based on 118 responses and 3,785 custom rates submitted.

Fourteen percent of the respondents perform custom work, 16% hire work done, 45% indicated doing both and 25% did not indicate whether they perform or hire custom work.

The cost of combining corn ranged from $22 to $45 per acre, with an average of $35.10 per acre. The cost of combining soybeans ranged from $22 to $46 per acre, with an average of $34.20.

The cost to mow hay ranged from $8 to $15 per acre, with an average of $11.35 per acre. The average cost for baling small square bales was $.59 per bale, $9.35 for large square bales, $10.80 for large round bales without wrapping, and $13.20 for large round bales wrapped.

New information in this year’s survey includes rates for seeding cover crops, combining corn with a reel and scouting crops with fixed wing drones.

Plastina said the survey is a useful starting point for negotiations and farm discussions, but it is not intended to be the sole factor used to set price. Other factors include the availability of machinery in a given area, timeliness and skills of the operator, field size and shape, field conditions and the performance characteristics of the machine being used.

“This is a reference guide of 118 respondents,” he said. “It’s a poll of opinions of what these people expect to charge and what they expect to pay for custom work.”