NDSU Extension - Burke County


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Drones Part 2 & Farm Bill Payment Calculator

County Agent News
Dan Folske
December 25, 2017


            Last week I wrote about using drones on the farm or ranch. Now I will open the discussion about what type of drone. Mention the word drone to most people and they will probably think of multirotor or quadcopter drones. These are what you typically see on TV or in the movies. The inexpensive drones being marketed during the Christmas season are almost exclusively multirotor drones, usually quadcopters. These units ranging from $40 to $250 dollars have short flight times and short control ranges. Often 6 to 8 minutes of flight from 1 to 2 hours of charge time. Control range is often limited to 300 to 500 feet. They may have streaming video and or snapshot cameras. For this price they can be good learning units and might be useful for seeing if you have any cattle on the other side of the hill or bogged down in the cattails.

They may be useful for taking photographs of small areas which were too wet to seed and then using software on your computer to calculate acreage. They might be fun to take some aerial photos of a building project during its construction.


            For most potential farm uses you are going to have to move up the cost curve to drones with more flight time, greater range, better cameras, and greater Drone 2payload capacity. Probably the biggest choice you will have to make is the drone type. Multirotor or fixed wing? The choice really depends on what you plan to use it for. Mapping large areas for many ag uses works much better with fixed wing drones. They can cover larger areas at higher cruising speeds, function in higher wind conditions and carry greater payloads (bigger and more cameras). The down side is the need for larger takeoff and landing areas (some have launchers which need to be set up and taken down each time you change locations). The integrated cameras usually have a lower cm per pixel camera resolution than those on multirotor drones.


Multirotor drones are more useful for small are inspection and detail mapping of small areas. They have a lower cruising speed and can hover in one location making them more useful for video. Resolution is often much greater than fixed wing units with mm per pixel resolution for greater detail. They can be operated from very small take-off landing areas. They are being commonly used by real estate companies for photos of property, insurance companies use them for detailing damage to structures, engineers are using them for bridge inspection, law enforcement is finding many uses for them. The biggest drawbacks of multirotor drones is their short flight times and low wind tolerances.


Farm Bill Payment Calculator Available for 2018 Cash Flow Estimates

The calculator helps producers estimate the ARC and PLC payments they may receive for their 2017 crops.

            Are you working on budgets and cash flows for 2018? USDA Farm Bill may provide producer payments from the 2017 crop year during the third quarter of 2018.  Here is a news release from Andy Swenson, NDSU Extension farm and family resource management specialist.


A calculator to help producers estimate the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) payments they may receive in 2018 is available online.

Visit http://bit.ly/2017FarmBillCalculator or search for “NDSU farm bill” on Google.

The payments are for the 2017 crop year, but the final determination and issuance of payments are not made until the last three months of 2018.

Producers face a challenging profit environment for 2018, and any source of revenue will be important in projecting cash flow, according to Andy Swenson, NDSU Extension farm and family resource management specialist.

“With current U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) price projections, base acres of canola, corn, wheat, barley, sunflower and flax should generate payments if enrolled in the PLC program,” Swenson says. “Amounts will vary from farm to farm, but a typical situation in North Dakota would be around $40 per base acre of canola and flax, $30 per acre for the wheat base and $20 per base acre of barley and sunflower.”

The PLC safety net is triggered by low prices. Payments will be reduced or eliminated if prices rise, but this loss of revenue could be offset by greater income from the market if producers grow those crops.

The ARC program is more complicated and difficult to project because it is a safety net triggered by the combination of price and yield, Swenson says.

Current USDA price projections indicate that if actual 2017 county yields are the same as the county benchmark yield, wheat and flax base acres would generate a maximum ARC payment, and the corn, barley and oats base would generate about half of a maximum payment.

The maximum possible ARC payment for the 2017 crop year will vary by crop and by county in North Dakota but would range from about $20 to $35 per wheat base acre and between $15 and $25 per flax base acre.

Using the USDA’s current price projections and average county yields in 2017, the sunflower base enrolled in the ARC program will generate a slight payment and soybeans are right on the edge. The soybean base would generate an ARC payment if the county yield is one bushel or more below the county average yield.

For more information about ARC-CO and PLC payments, visit https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/farmmanagement/farm-bill.


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