ISSUE #523

523 - Grower Cost Benchmarking

The most relevant data tool to compare input costs, improve practices, and advance profitability


The Grower Cost Benchmarking program completed its sixth year in 2008. Costs of production continue to escalate at an alarming rate. Breakeven yields are approaching 20 tons per acre or more. It's critical to know exactly how much production costs are per acre and return per acre on every field. Here is what some of your fellow growers say has been the value of participation in the Grower Cost Benchmarking program.

523.vivatsonRobert Vivatson Jr. from the Drayton District says "Through Grower Cost Benchmarking we can track fields for return per acre and make individual decisions on things like where certain varieties should go in the future. It allows us to look at our farm and see where we can cut costs on a per field basis."

523.muellerDavid Mueller from the Hillsboro District says "This program will give you a precise cost of production. This has helped us make decisions with confidence about growing our farm business. It also gives you a yield goal to aim for every year to produce a profit. Again you can compare your precise total cost to that of all the participants to see where you stack up."

"Because of working with the project all six years, we have been able to establish trend lines, to see how we are doing with the beet enterprise as a whole and in each production area. This program establishes fact rather than hunches on our performance over the past six years, and helps project what the future might hold."

523.loyMike Loyland from the East Grand Forks District says "The Grower Cost Benchmarking program is a great tool a grower can use to network old, new, and innovative ideas. It gives us (growers) the ability to take different and new agronomic applications and apply a dollar value to them. We can then decide for ourselves what works and what doesn't."


Shareholder involvement is critical to maintaining the integrity of the Grower Cost Benchmarking program. The greater number of participants, the more reliable and applicable the information. Contact your Agriculturist to participate in 2009.

Grower Cost Benchmarking Goals

  • To make you more profitable
  • Establish what your doing that's right
  • Rationalize practices
  • Find areas for improvement
  • Look for new opportunities
  • Do a breakeven analysis
  • Compare individual field productivity
  • Do long term trend analysis

Some 2008 Grower Cost Benchmarking Conclusions

  • Herbicide costs were higher in Moorhead and Hillsboro districts
  • Fertilizer cost was much lower in Drayton
  • Seed cost has increased 44% since 2003
  • 2008 fertilizer cost increased 41% over the three year average
  • Total production costs have increased 32% since 2003

Root Maggot Risk Up In All Districts

NDSU sugarbeet entomologists forecast significantly higher root maggot populations throughout the Red River Valley in 2009. Forecasts are based on fly counts in June and July and root damage ratings taken in August and September, see Figure 1. Many new outbreaks are expected in 2009.


*Based on fly counts & root damage ratings in 2008

What Should Growers Do?

  • Review the forecast for your area
  • Apply an insecticide at planting
  • Be vigilant about fly monitoring
  • Expect in-season update information from
  • NDSU Crop and Pest Report
  • American Crystal Sugar Company website
  • Radio reports
  • Your agriculturist

Technology Fees for Seed

Be reminded you only pay the technology fee once if you have to replant. The company supplying the original seed refunds the technology fee. The seed company providing the replant seed then collects the technology fee.