WHEN YOU turn the page to our first story, you'll read about the ongoing trend to make more massive farm equipment. Although most of you won't be buying new Class 8 and Class 9 combines right away, there's a chance that down the road you will. Success in today's economy requires growth, and that frequently comes from expansion.

So what do farmers really think about the push for bigger farms and bigger equipment? We posed that question to some of our Team FIN members, and their responses were mixed.

Fewer employees

“Things are getting bigger for sure and there is no end in sight,” reports Daryl Bridenbaugh. “If you are a good operator, it is easier to buy a larger machine than several smaller machines.” Several small machines require hiring more people to operate them, lowering their wages to keep costs in line, and providing employee benefits like health insurance. “Hiring full-time people is a real expensive headache and then you have to worry if people will show up for work,” Bridenbaugh says. “So I see no end in the trend for more productive machinery.”

But the trend to bigger farms and equipment means it is harder for young people to start farming, which Bridenbaugh hates to see. “Bigger farmers are paying high rents, which makes it impossible for anyone smaller to compete,” he says. “And bigger machines mean bigger bucks.”

What about net worth?

Team FIN member Steve Webb sees a problem with leasing large equipment. He says farmers who lease the vehicles may be living better, but their cash flow goes to current expenses and not to build net worth. “This trend bothers me a lot,” he says.

Still a need for small machines

Kent Lock reports that “the increase in combine size is not a concern for me. What is of great concern is the discontinuing of smaller combine production while introducing new models of large class size.” Lock's current combine is Class 6, and its manufacturer discontinued building it. Although Lock purchased the combine in 2001, he's still not ready to jump a class.

“Bigger combines raise issues like too small machine shed doors and transportation hazards on rural roads,” Lock says. He sees new large combines go down the road with one wheel on the shoulder to allow clearance for oncoming traffic. The road shoulder gets pretty “chewed up by the weight of the combine,” he says.

In the end, the decision to move up a size in equipment depends on many factors. Our cover story, “Combines on steroids,” may help you make that decision.