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Custom rates ease back

Custom-rate charges for fall and winter tasks show signs of easing back after years of steady gains. That’s the bottom line, according to custom machine rate-survey data collected by the Pennsylvania office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Compared to 2009, some 2010 charges dropped while others rose. And a few rose substantially, reports Adam Pike, coordinator of the NASS survey.

They should not be considered absolute indications of fair charges, adds Pike, Rates include the cost of hiring the machine plus fuel and operator labor. Local rates will vary due to differences in equipment efficiency, demand for the services and operator eagerness to do custom work. The values reported in the accompanying table reflect the average of the middle 80% of all reported rates.

Key Points

• Custom rates are more erratic this year due to many rate declines.

• The rate for complete silage harvest and silo-filling dropped 30%.

• Solid-manure spreading may cost 14% more this fall and winter.

Biggest rate changers were ...

Here are the fall and winter tasks that recorded the biggest year-to-year changes in Pennsylvania:

• While silage harvest tasks generally increased, the per-ton rate for field chopping, hauling and silo filling dropped more than 30%.

• Manure (solid) spreading per-hour rates climbed almost 14%.

• Liquid manure-spreading rates are up 8% per hour.

• Deep plowing rose 11.5%.

• Posthole digging dropped nearly 13%, after posting an 18% rise in 2009.

• Chain-sawing wood rose more than 11%.

For more detailed rates ...

Pennsylvania’s complete guide, with mountain- and valley-rate breakouts, plus a range of rates, can be downloaded or printed off the Web at You’ll find it by clicking on the “More” tab on the right.

You’ll find the same report at; click on “Pennsylvania publications.” Or, get a free mail copy and subscription by calling 800-498-1518.

Assuming adequate funds are available, Maryland Cooperative Extension plans to resume its custom rate survey early next year, reports Shannon Dill, Talbot County Extension director. E-mail her at or call her at 410-822-1244 to leave your name and address to be surveyed in the next round.


EXPENSIVE ‘SPREAD’: Liquid or dry, custom manure spreading is getting more costly, due to rising demand and the need for incorporation.

This article published in the September, 2010 edition of AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.