Big-ticket items like used tractors, planters and harvesters are on the list of necessities that will certainly add to growers’ production costs as they watch input costs march step for step with higher commodity prices.

Corn prices above $6/bu., soybeans above $13/bu., wheat swathing $9/bu. and cotton blowing through $1.70/lb. entice producers to bargain for better equipment. Look for prices tallying 5-20% more – or even higher – as the demand for good used equipment surpasses supply, say equipment dealers and auction operators across the country.

“The market is super active,” says Ron Stock, CEO of Bigiron.com online equipment auction and Stock Auction and Real Estate in St. Edwards, NE. “Farmers are spending money like they won the lottery.” He says more growers are looking for sprayers. “They can expect to see them 10% higher for the typical 90-ft.-boom models.

“For planters, we’re seeing about an equal supply and demand. But prices are still higher, at 5-10% more (than in early 2010).”

As an example of planter prices, a recent listing by Stock’s Bigiron.com site had bids in the $76,000 range for a Case IH 1250 24R 30-ft. planter, with Sunco trash whippers and bulk fill.

Stock says demand for combines will certainly increase as the summer approaches. “Combine prices will probably also be in the 5% higher range,” he says.

An recent example of combine prices at Bigiron had bids in the $180,000 range for a 2010 Case IH 7120 Combine, with about 95 separator hours showing and 133 engine hours.

Good tractors in the 150+-hp range are up as much as 20% over a year ago. Even the tractors with higher hours are not scaring buyers off. If the tractor has been well maintained with good service records, it will bring a good price.”

Gary Dewitt, general manager of Dewitt Auction, Sikeston, MO, says growers can expect to pay more for about all types of equipment. “We’re seeing prices that are 10-15% higher for used planters,” says Dewitt. “Tractors are at least 10% higher and sprayers are up about 10%. Combines and cotton pickers could be 15-20% higher.”

Colby Flaming, general manager of Western Equipment, a John Deere dealership headquartered in Amarillo, TX, with eight locations in the Southwest, says planters are seeing a slight increase in prices in the southern High Plains.

“It’s difficult to set a price on planters because of the many options that are available,” says Flaming, who encourages growers to start looking six months to a year ahead if they expect to find equipment with the options they want. “But we’re seeing about a 3-4% increase in prices, similar to the increase in new planter prices.

“In looking at tractors, a late-model 180-hp John Deere 8130 ran about $110,000 in 2010. It would probably be in the $115,000 range this year. Sprayers, which are limited in availability, are about 3-4% higher this year over last.

“In many cases, though, combine prices are similar in price to last year. We’re seeing a stability in the combine market, even though it’s hard to find one that’s exactly what a guy wants.”

Frank Godley, co-owner of Godley Auction Co. in Charlotte, NC, says planter prices are about 10% higher than in early 2010 in his eastern region. “I think we’ll see the same deal for tractors,” he says.

“Farmers wanting to trade in tractors will get a good price for them. I think they’ll go up just as much as new ones. I also think we’ll see cotton pickers 5-10% higher.”

Drought and other disasters kept some growers from enjoying higher crop prices in recent years. One area is the Coastal Bend of Texas.

Stock says that with Internet technology, there’s a market for machinery somewhere.  “If some areas aren’t using 38-in. rows anymore, there is a market for that 12-row planter elsewhere. It just might have to go 800 miles away. 

“Buyers are no longer scared to bid on a piece of equipment based off a picture from 800 miles away. Pictures don’t lie,” he says.