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Harvesting Cost Estimates
Author: Scott Stiles, Extension Economist

For the week ending September 3, USDA estimated that Arkansas’ corn acreage was 46% harvested. Rice and soybeans were 18% and 7% harvested respectively.  Currently the state’s harvest pace for corn and rice is running 5 percentage points behind the 5-year average.

With an active Atlantic hurricane season this year, windows of opportunity to harvest can be narrow.  To take advantage of brief periods of favorable weather producers may hire custom operators or local farmers to assist with harvest.  In these cases cost estimates for harvesting may be useful.

University of Arkansas extension economists recently updated the fact sheet “Estimating Farm Machinery Costs”.   This publication includes estimated harvesting costs for grain, cotton and peanuts. Costs include ownership (depreciation and interest), fuel, repairs and labor. Page 5 of Table 2 in the fact sheet provides harvesting costs for each of the major crops. Included for each crop are specific cost estimates based on machine horsepower and header widths. Generally, per acre costs decrease as machine size and header width increases, assuming that acres harvested also increase.  Page 6 of Table 2 includes cost estimates for grain carts and various operations in peanut harvesting.

Allowances for profit are not included in these cost estimates. Charging custom rates at estimated costs should cover total costs, but will not generate profits. In cases where custom operations are intended to be a form of income, adding 10 to 15 percent to the estimated total cost is customary as the operator’s profit. However, custom operators should evaluate the costs based upon their annual usage and other specific parameters from their operation.

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