Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Oh yeah, well I'm more inefficient than you!...

An interesting dialog caught my attention, if only for its perverse ramifications. In order to justify our negotiating position for rents farmers are arguing how long it takes them to grow a crop.

Let's do the engineer thing and throw a few real numbers at this discussion as opposed to words. This is a crude spreadsheet I used to calculate how many minutes of in-the-tractor-seat time I spent to grow stuff. (Sorry, this formats weird when I post it)

Field Labor Requirements 2007

Day length 10 hrs.

Corn Beans
A/Day Min/A A/Day Min/A
NH4 Application 150 4.00
Burndown 400 1.50
Finisher 160 3.75
Planting 200 3.00
Planting 180 3.33

Spraying 300 2.00
Spraying 320 1.88

Cultivating 200 3.00
Harvesting (2 op.) 100 12.00
Harvesting (2 operators) 60 20.00

Chiseling (50% of ground) 80 3.75

Corn Total 39.83 Minutes Beans total 18.38
Corn acres
Bean acres 740
Corn time
650.6 hrs. Bean time

Farm totals



Misc (mowing etc.)

917.2 hrs.

Total operators

Hours /operator/yr

If it wasn't obvious, the totals are about 40 minutes for corn and 18 for beans. Your results - as they say - may vary. The purpose of this spreadsheet is to help me make the numbers smaller.

Now this accounting does not include support operations - accounting, marketing, maintenance, etc., but I don't think that is what guys were talking about.

My point is when we brag about how much time it takes us to do our job, we have slipped to the wrong side of the "what's the point" decision.


Anonymous said...

Rents need to be a percentage of net profit instead of a fixed up front cost. If renters are holding out for increased rent based on potential corn or commodity prices then maybe they should just park it in CRP. At a point they will be contributing to the demise of the farmer through unfair and excessive pressure. If they don't want to be good stewards of the land, let them farm it themselves and see just how much they will make. Your cost while interesting don't even begin to convey the actual cost to net a crop including machinery etc. What it tell me is that you should be compensated at approx. $60 / hour to handle overhead on the real cost of living. Deduct health care etc. Although spreadsheets can be very telling, they can be daunting and depressing after you factor ALL the costs in. Here in West Tennessee a lot of corn is still standing in fields on rotting stalks. Many planted without thought as to how long it would take to harvest. Corn past prime is a shame if not harvested.

There are areas where you can not throttle down and work the ground pulling a 40' tool for 30 min. each direction. Some places here are not worth the GPS and Self-Steer because the plots are too irregular or small. In our area we saw wheat being turned under to plant corn and then a drought. What a mess. Still we are working long hard hours.

Still when landowners charge rent as a percentage of net, it forces them to take into consideration the farmers input costs and more responsibility on proper management. Nothing is for free and neither is land rent. The landowner must have an active interest.

John Phipps said...


As a landowner as well as a farmer, I was struck by the idea of being "forced" to take into consideration farmer input costs. No thank you - I will not. The rights of ownership are absolute - on my acres, nobody forces me to any such thing - which is why I "overpay" to buy every acre. If a person wants to exert the rights of ownership, he needs to buy the land.

You won't like it, but I would suggest you read the latest perspective in Top Producer, entitled "More Risk, Please" which states my case for the opposing position.

The competition will determine which of our viewpoints will survive in the land rental market. I assume all the risk for my landowners; you assert they must share it.

You may be right. We shall know soon.