NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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NDSU Offers Updated Crop Compare Program for 2020

Crop Compare, spreadsheet, compare cropping alternatives

Submitted by Craig Askim, Extension Agent/Agriculture and Natural Resources                                

2019 will go in the history books as a year remembered for its extreme wet conditions to the point that some crops were not harvested. We all hope we will not see a year like that again when it comes to agriculture.

However; the new year presents new opportunities and producers should take time to do crop comparison budgets for 2020. Budgeting plays a huge role in the success potential. The following article talks about new computer spreadsheets that aid producers in making difficult decisions for this cropping year, which will provide valuable information when talking to landowners, lenders or other family members about reducing risk for the 2020 cropping season. 

North Dakota State University Extension has updated the Crop Compare program, which is a spreadsheet designed to compare cropping alternatives.

The program uses the direct costs and yields from the 2020 projected crop budgets for nine regions of North Dakota, but producers are encouraged to enter the expected yields and input costs for their farm.

The user designates a reference crop and enters its expected market price. Depending on the region, a broad selection of nine to 18 crops are compared. The program provides the prices for competing crops that would be necessary to provide the same return over variable costs as the reference crop.

"Producers can compare these 'break-even' prices to expected market prices to see which crop is most likely to compete with the reference crop," says Andy Swenson, NDSU Extension farm management specialist. "Grain prices can move quickly. The program provides a tool for producers to check the changing scenarios until final planting decisions are made this spring."

It should be noted that an underlying assumption is that fixed costs, such as machinery ownership, land, and the owner's labor and management, do not vary among crop choices and therefore do not need to be included in the analysis.

"In practice, there may be differences in fixed costs that should be considered," Swenson says.

"For example, there may be additional labor, management and risk associated with a competing crop," Swenson adds. "If all the labor and management is provided by the owner-operator, it would be considered a fixed cost and could be excluded.

However, the producer should add some cost if he or she would only want to produce the crop when an adequate reward would be received for the extra time and management required relative to the reference crop."

A similar rationale could be used if a competing crop is considered higher risk.

The Crop Compare program is available online at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/farmmanagement/tools.

Source: Andrew Swenson, 701-231-7379, andrew.swenson@ndsu.edu

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