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Custom rates inch up

Custom machinery work charges as gauged by survey reports from farmers and custom operators are generally higher this year. Pennsylvania custom rates are up less than 2% overall compared to last year, according to the 2011 survey by Pennsylvania’s office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

2011 custom-rate survey data gathered by Maryland Cooperative Extension shows somewhat larger rises. That’s comparing the values to those reported in 2009.

Rates include the cost of hiring the machine plus fuel and operator labor, says Adam Pike, Pennsylvania ag statistician. They exclude seed, fertilizer and other materials unless specified.

Key Points

Overall, 2011 average rates rose less than 2% vs. 2010.

Biggest increases in silage harvest, small-tractor rental.

More detailed custom-rate breakouts are available.


Do not consider them as absolute indications of fair charges, cautions Pike. Custom rates vary considerably due to field conditions and job size, plus differences in efficiencies of equipment used, demand for the services and operator eagerness to do custom work.

They also don’t account for the recent spike in fuel costs.

Biggest rate-changers

Here are the tasks that recorded the biggest year-to-year shifts in Pennsylvania, beginning with the big-ticket items:

After dropping more than 30% in 2010, the per-ton rate for field-chopping, hauling and silo-filling climbed almost 15%.

Renting a tractor under 80 horsepower climbed 13% compared to year-ago rates.

Silage bagging rates bounced up more than 15%.

Custom silage-harvest rates for two men, two wagons and two tractors rose almost 10%.

Custom silage harvest with high-horsepower choppers rose 8%.

This article published in the May, 2011 edition of AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.