An annual Iowa State University survey details average rates, median charges and rate ranges for a variety of custom services on Iowa farms, including charges for precision services. 

According to the 2022 Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey, operators in Iowa charge an average of $2.25 per acre for seed shut-offs while planting, drilling and seeding, based on 49 responses. The median rate is $2 per acre. Variable rate seeding costs an average of $2.45 per acre with a median rate of $2.50 per acre, and using GPS for analytics also nets an average of $2.45 per acre and a median of $2. Individual rates range from 50 cents to $5 for all 3 services. 

Scouting crops with a drone averages $4.30 per acre. The rates provided in the 7 total individual responses ranged from $2-$7.50 per acre. Scouting crops without a drone averages $5.05 per acre, based on 14 responses. 

Soil testing in Iowa costs an average of $3.75 per sample with a range of $3-4 per sample. GPS grid soil testing runs about $6.50 per acre on average, with a range of $3.25-10 based on 13 responses.

Iowa Custom Service Rates Increase

Iowa State's survey also includes percentage changes by category of custom services in 2022 compared to 2021.The data show the largest single percentage change for custom services is 13.6% for labor costs, followed by a 10.1% increase for miscellaneous services. Respondents said the average cost of harvesting forages would increase 8.1%, followed by a 7.1% increase for preharvest operations.

Bin and machinery rental is expected to increase 5.4%, while harvesting and hauling are expected to increase 3.4%. Complete custom farming services are expected to increase about 1.5%.

Survey Demographics

About 122 people who received an email or mailed survey responded, and the survey includes 3,389 rates furnished by farmers, custom operators and farm managers.

Among respondents, 20% perform custom work, 16% hire custom outfits, 50% do both, and 14% gave no response for their relationship to custom work.

Researchers caution that the survey results, which include ranges and other information for specific services, should only be used as a guide, and point out that actual custom rates can vary widely within the state of Iowa, let alone among various states.

Click here to see the 2022 survey