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Combine Unloading to a Grain Cart

Harvest scene in the Corn Belt - a large combine quickly unloads grain to a high-capacity grain cart
Source: Daniel R. Ess, Purdue University

Land: The average price of an acre of U.S. farmland is over $2,000. Prime farm real estate (including farm ‎land and buildings used for agriculture) in the Corn Belt can sell for over $ 5,560 per acre (2012). ‎Contrary to the high prices of the Corn Belt is the average price in the Mountain states, where farm ‎real estate sells for $974 per acre (2012). The average value of cropland (land used for field crops, ‎vegetables or land harvested for hay) per acre in the US sold for $3,550 in 2012. ‎

Cash rental prices for land vary by state and quality of the land. Prices range from $ 30 per acre ‎per year for pasture to over $261 for highly productive cropland.‎

Machinery:  The variety of machines for producing crops is as great as the variety of crops produced. However, there are certain "staple" technologies such as tractors and combines that serve to illustrate the magnitude of investment that modern farmers must make in machinery.

It is often puzzling to non-farmers to see expensive equipment stored in sheds and/or sitting idle for months at a time. Why would a farmer invest $300,000 in a large combine only to use it for four weeks out of the year? How could a farmer possibly justify spending upwards of $200,000 for a tractor that is used for little else but tillage? The simple, but important, answer is TIMELINESS. Crops are biological “products” that produce optimum yields only when planting and harvest operations can be performed within relatively small windows of time. For instance, the optimum harvest window for corn in Eastern Illinois is only 30 days long and for wheat in Kansas the harvest window is only 10 to 14 days. This requires the use of large equipment that is used very intensively for relatively short periods of time.

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U.S. USDA. National Agricultural Statistics Service. Land Values 2012 Summary. N.p., 7 Aug. 2012. ‎Web. <http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/current/AgriLandVa/AgriLandVa-08-03-2012.pdf>.‎

U.S. USDA. NASS. 2010 Cropland Cash Rent by State. N.p., 10 Sept. 2010. Web. ‎‎<http://www.nass.usda.gov/Charts_and_Maps/Land_Values_and_Cash_Rents/crop_rent_map.asp‎‎>.‎

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