Due to the high cost of investment in farm machinery, an ever-increasing number of farm operators are hiring other farm operators to provide some or all of their machinery resources for their farm operation. This is especially true with new and younger farm operators, as well as with children that decide to start farming with their parents. In addition, some land investors are choosing to operate a farm themselves rather than cash renting the land another farm operator, thus hiring a farm operator under a custom farming agreement.

Custom farming agreements usually include tillage, planting, some weed control, harvesting, and delivering grain to a specified location. Some farm operators also hire custom work for specific farm operations with another farm operator, such as planting, combining, or tillage. Many farm operators negotiate these types of custom rate and custom farming arrangements prior to planting each year, while others wait until harvest is completed.
One of the best resources for average custom rates is the annual “Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey” that is coordinated and analyzed by Iowa State University. Earlier this year, 130 custom operators and farm managers responded to the 2024 survey, submitting over 2,800 expected custom farm rates for various farm operations in 2024. The survey summary lists the average and “median” custom rate, as well as a range, for various tillage, planting, fertilizer and chemical application, grain harvesting, and forage harvesting functions on the farm. The “median” rate means that half of the reported rates were higher and half were lower than the listed rate. The survey also includes custom farming rates for corn and soybeans, as well as many miscellaneous farming practices, average per hour farm labor rates, and includes a formula for calculating rental rates. The average custom rates for farm operations in most areas of the Upper Midwest tend to be very close to the Iowa rates.

Average 2024 farm custom rates for some typical tillage, planting, and harvesting practices, as well as custom farming rates, are listed in the adjoining Table. The complete 2024 “Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey” for all farming practices is available on-line at the following Iowa State University web site:

Based on the Iowa State data, most average custom rates for tillage, planting, and harvest operations in 2024 were fairly steady compared to the rates for similar operations in 2023. The 2024 custom farming rates for corn and soybean production are also expected to remain steady compared to a year earlier, following an increase of nearly 20 percent in the previous five years. The cost for new and used machinery has stabilized in late 2023 and early 2024; however, fuel costs, repair costs, labor charges, and interest rates remain quite high. It should be noted that many of these factors could change by the end of 2024, which may result in custom operators adjusting their final custom rates by year-end to more fully reflect any changes in the expenses for custom operations.

All listed custom rates in the Iowa Survey results include fuel, labor, repairs, depreciation, insurance, and interest, unless listed as rental rates or otherwise specified. The average price for diesel fuel was assumed to be $3.92 per gallon. A fuel price increase of $.50 per gallon would cause most custom rates to increase by approximately five percent. These average or median rates are only meant to be a guide for custom rates, as actual custom rates charged may vary depending on changes in fuel costs, availability of custom operators, timeliness, field size, etc. There are also many other specific situations among farmers and family members that share farm machinery that could lead to adjustments in final custom rates.

Note — For additional information contact Kent Thiesse, Farm Management Analyst, Green Solutions
Phone — (507) 381-7960; E-mail —
Following are the “Median” custom rates for some common farming practices for 2024, as well as the (range) of custom rates listed, based on the “Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey” ……
Note — “Median” means that half of the reported rates were higher and half were lower than the listed rate.

Custom Farming Rates (includes tillage, planting and harvesting costs):
Corn ———— $150.00 per acre (Range = $75 – $280 per acre)
Soybeans ——- $140.00 per acre (Range = $71 – $280 per acre)

Moldboard Plow ———- $20.00 per acre ($15 – $22 per acre)
Disk/Chisel —————- $23.00 per acre ($12 – $29 per acre)
V-Ripper (deep tillage) — $24.00 per acre ($10 – $30 per acre)
Field Cultivator ———— $17.90 per acre ($7.60 – $32 per acre)
Tandem Disk ————— $18.00 per acre ($10 – $27.50 per acre)
Strip Tillage —————- $22.00 per acre ($15 – $27.50 per acre) (add $4.50/A. for anhydrous appl.)
Chopping Cornstalks —– $14.50 per acre ($8 – $20 per acre)

Planting and Spraying:
Planter With Attachments ——- $26.00 per acre ($15 – $35 per acre)
Planter Without Attachments — $24.75 per acre ($13 – $37 per acre)
No-Till Planter ——————– $26.00 per acre ($13 – $42 per acre)
Soybean Drill ——————— $20.00 per acre ($15 – $30 per acre) (no-till drilling)
Cover Crop Drill —————— $19.00 per acre ($10 – $35 per acre)
Crop Spraying (broadcast) ——- $10.00 per acre ($7 – $16 per acre) (self-propelled sprayer)

Harvesting Grain:
Corn Combine ——————- $42.00 per acre ($30 – $80 per acre) (add $3/A. for GPS mapping)
$44.00 per acre (with chopper head) ($65/A. with grain cart & truck)
Soybean Combine —————- $40.00 per acre ($25 – $70 per acre) (add $3/A. for GPS mapping)
$43.00 per acre with draper head) ($63.50/A. with grain cart & truck)
Small Grain Combine ———– $39.00 per acre ($32 – $45 per acre)
Corn Grain Cart (in field) ——- $7.00 per acre ($.50 – $20 per acre)
Soybean Grain Cart (in field) — $6.25 per acre ($.50 – $18 per acre)
Hauling Grain (5 mi. or less) — $0.13 per bushel ($.08 – $.18 per bushel)
Hauling Grain (5-25 mi.) ——– $0.20 per bushel ($.09 – $.30 per bushel)
Grain Drying (cont. flow) ——- $0.05 per point per bushel (incl. fuel, electricity & labor)
Farm Bin Rental —————– $0.15 per bu. per year ($.10 – $.20/bu./year) (or $.03/bu./month)

Harvesting Forages:
Windrowing (Mowing) Hay ——— $18.00 per acre ($14 – $25 per acre)
Hay Baling (large bales) ————- $15.50 per bale ($12 – $18 per bale) (with wrap)
Corn Stalk Baling (large bales) —– $16.25 per bale ($12 – $18 per bale) (with wrap)
Silage Chopping ———————- $ 7.00 per ton ($6 – $8 per ton)

Farm Labor Rates:
General Farm Labor —————- $20.00 per hour ($16 – $30 per hour)
Spraying & Harvesting Labor —– $24.00 per hour ($16 – $35 per hour)
*** Table prepared by Kent Thiesse, Farm Management Analyst ***