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Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics


Survey Finds Rising Custom Farm Work Rates in Ohio

July 16, 2014

In a recent statewide survey of Ohio farmers, farm managers, landowners and farm equipment operators, Barry Ward, an economist in Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, found that, on average, custom farm work rates in the state of Ohio are rising.

The survey is conducted biennially to learn about the hiring of farm workers and machinery operators by Ohio agricultural producers and what rates producers are paying these workers for their services. This contracted labor is referred to as “custom farm work” or “custom work.”

The survey findings are used by Ohio State Extension professionals and farmers across the state to understand current market rates for farm services. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.

"Custom workers are often engaged due to a farm business owner's lack of proper equipment, lack of time, or lack of expertise for a particular operation," noted Ward, who is the production business management leader for OSU Extension and a faculty member in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics.

This year’s survey had 256 participants, up from 122 in 2012. The survey findings show a steady increase in custom farm work rates compared to previous years.

“There is a consistent trend in that custom rates have risen each year. We find that this partly reflects inflation due to increases in the cost of equipment, gas, and other supplies,” Ward noted. “Additionally, the significant boom that we’ve seen over the past few years in the agricultural sector has put upward pressure on these rates as well.”

Some of the significant increases in custom farm work rates from 2012 to 2014 included:

  • Hay/straw harvest: 15.4 percent increases on average
  • Ground fertilizer application: 10.9 percent increases on average
  • Harvesting operations: 10.5 percent increases on average
  • Planting operations: 10.4 percent increases on average
  • Soil preparation and tillage operations: 9.9 percent increases on average

The survey is administered through Ohio State's Farm Management program, which is overseen by Ward. The program provides resources such as budgeting tools, decision tools, and data and statistics, for those working in agriculture across the state of Ohio and beyond.

Click here to see the full survey results. 

July 16, 2014