Hiring out for custom work

Harvest machinery is often the biggest expense in a farming operation from the initial purchase, to supplemental vehicles and equipment needed, to long-term ownership costs. Not having debt on harvest equipment can have a profoundly positive effect on the balance sheet. So how do you get the crop out of the field? Hire someone else to do it.

Rana Zeller is on the board of directors for U.S. Custom Harvesters. She says contracting with a custom harvester is worth consideration.

"We come in, we’re going to have the equipment anyway, we have guys that are specialized in working on it and things of that nature. The other thing is labor. Labor across the board for ag is very difficult and so we bring on the employees. Another thing that they’d want to look at is insurance," says Zeller. "Our insurance, we insure our Custom Harvesters not only our equipment, but we’re insured on the crop and we have blanket insurance."

There are things to ask and consider as you’re searching for a custom harvester.

"What is the equipment, the equipment that they have is it what I need? Some guys are really looking into better kernel processors, or some guys are looking into GPS, do they have the equipment that I actually need? Maybe call around and get references. That is one thing that really makes a difference. Is that custom harvester going to get a call for a better job and up and leave you or do they have good references to make sure that your crop and the end result is beneficial to you," she says. "So those are some things to ask."

 The work involved and all charges should be agreed upon in advance, and written in a contract. Good communication, mutual understanding, and honesty are the keys to a successful arrangement.