Farmers spend more than $12 billion annually on pesticides, according to the most recent data from USDA. For comparison, farmers only spent $2.3 billion on pesticides in the 1960s. USDA tracks pesticide expenditures, which currently account for 3.1% of total agricultural costs—lower than their all-time high in 1998 at 4%.
Pesticide costs, including herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, have been on the rise since 2000, according to University of Illinois Farmdoc Daily. In 2000, they were about $33 per acre and in 2017 they jumped to $73 per acre.
Herbicide resistance could be to blame for some of the increased cost, according to Farmdoc. “Herbicide resistance leads to use of alternate pesticide combinations which are generally more expensive than pesticide packages used when herbicide-resistance is not a problem.”
However, experts expect chemical prices to remain stable for the 2019 season compared to 2017.
From 2016 to 2017, USDA tracked a farm chemical price drop of 3% in soybeans and 2.5% in corn. David Widmar, co-founder of Agriculture Economic Insights, reminds farmers to be careful when cutting chemicals cost because weeds and diseases can take a chunk out of yield.
“In crop protection try to prepay, order ahead and look outside of normal operating procedures,” Widmar says. “For example, if you normally only do a post, what does it look like with a pre-emergent herbicide? Don’t just minimize a single application—look at the whole picture. You would hate to go for a low-cost application early in the season and then end up spending more money later with clean up applications.”
Read the rest of the Input Forecast series:
Inputs Forecast: Fuel Prices Higher, Could Be Volatile
Inputs Forecast: Fertilizer Prices Increase For First Time In Years
Inputs Forecast: Get Creative To Save On Seed Costs