Survey: Custom Farm Work Rates Rising in Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The rates custom farm workers are paid in Ohio are rising, according to a new statewide survey of Ohio growers, farm workers and machinery operators completed by agricultural economists from Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

The 2014 Ohio Farm Custom Rate Survey found that the rates paid to farm workers and machinery operators for custom farm work have increased thanks in part to increased supply costs and the agriculture industry boom in recent years, according to Barry Ward, production business management leader for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college.

The survey of Ohio farmers, farm managers, landowners and farm equipment operators is conducted every two years 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 is targeted to both those who hire custom farm work and those who perform the work, Ward said.

“There is a consistent trend in that custom rates have risen each year,” he said. “We find that this partly reflects inflation due to increases in the cost of equipment, gas, and other supplies.

“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

"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," Ward said. “A ‘custom rate’ is the amount agreed upon by both parties to be paid by the custom work customer to the custom work provider.”

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. The findings are used by OSU Extension professionals and farmers across the state to understand current market rates for farm services. The survey has proved useful over the years as custom farming providers and customers often negotiate an agreeable custom farming rate by using OSU Extension survey results, Ward said.

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.

To see the full survey results, see the PDF available at

CFAES News Team
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Barry Ward