Capital Press | Winter Services and Supplies Capital Press Thu, 18 Sep 2014 05:10:38 -0400 en Capital Press | Winter Services and Supplies Weatherize equipment for a problem-free spring Wed, 6 Nov 2013 13:53:26 -0400 LACEY JARRELL Farmers and ranchers don’t need to spend a lot of money weatherizing equipment to ensure that it readily fires up in the spring, farmer Albert Roberts says.

Roberts, who also writes the “Ask Albert” column on the Washington Tilth Producers website, said simple steps like moving equipment indoors and applying grease or crankcase oil to mechanical parts can help avoid one of the main winter threats to farm equipment: moisture.

“If you grease everything before putting it away, it will keep moisture out and the equipment will run nice when it’s started up in the spring,” Roberts said.

When equipment operates, he said, oil and grease out are pushed out, leaving the moving parts to run metal-to-metal. If rust is present, pieces can flake off, causing parts to deteriorate much quicker.

To avoid engine damage, Roberts stressed the importance of washing, drying, greasing bearings and oil chains regularly, emphasizing that hay equipment should be cleaned thoroughly because hay remnants are especially prone to attracting moisture.

Covering exhaust openings with a tin can to stall moisture accumulation during wet periods and to prevent mice from nesting in engine compartments is another inexpensive — but effective — way to protect equipment, he said.

Mice are known for destroying insulation and chewing on electrical wires. Exposed wires can cause a short circuit and start fires, Roberts explained. He suggested placing mothballs inside engine compartments, near wires and under floor mats to ward off rodents.

In regions of extreme or prolonged cold, equipment owners should test antifreeze limits with a hydrometer every year in September or October, said Leon Basey, service manager at Washington Tractor in Chehalis, Wash.

“Unless you have a leak, it should be good for one year,” he said.

Basey explained that the meter’s float indicates the lowest temperature antifreeze will protect. If the hydrometer reading is not as low as regional temperatures, the fluid can be drained and more antifreeze with the correct limit can be added to reach the needed protection, he said.

Hydrometers can be purchased at most parts stores for less than $10.

Along with antifreeze, Roberts said before storing equipment hydraulic tanks and fuel tanks should be checked to ensure moisture hasn’t collected inside. The easiest way to do this is to open the drain valve and observe if water comes out, he said. When water is present, drain the tank until the moisture is gone, and then replace oil and fuel as needed.

Fuel stabilizer can also help maintain engine function by preventing fuel evaporation, which, if prolonged, can leave deposits of varnish and cause floats to stick. When this happens, Roberts said, it’s common that a carburetor must be removed and cleaned before equipment can be used in the spring. Running the equipment with stabilizer in the fuel tank before winter is the best bet, he said.

Roberts pointed out that winter preparations must also take place outside the engine compartment. He advised airing up tires to keep them from going flat or blocking them off the ground to keep weight off them as good ways to ensure equipment is field-ready in spring.

“Low air pressure creates a weak spot in the tube or tire that can cause it to fail earlier than it should,” he said.

Tires keep farm operations rolling Wed, 6 Nov 2013 13:51:10 -0400 LACEY JARRELL In response to farm equipment manufactured with higher horsepower, a new type of tire technology tha Low interest rates help borrowers Wed, 6 Nov 2013 11:51:30 -0400 LACEY JARRELL Today’s agricultural borrowers can enjoy lower interest rates than those available before and during the recession, according to Northwest Farm Credit Services Regional Vice President Bob Boyle.

“This is the third year of record profitability. It’s a great time to be a farmer,” he said.

Northwest Farm Credit, which began providing services nearly 100 years ago, provides loans and financial programs to all aspects of agriculture: purchases, homes, lines of credit and capital. Farm Credit has about 25,000 loan relationships with farmers and ranchers in five states.

Boyle declined to reveal current interest rates are, but he said the prime rate driving most seasonal operating loans is 3.25 percent. Most lines of credit will be made to match the length of the time it is needed.

“It’s not uncommon to see operating lines of credit in the one- to three-year period,” Boyle said.

Interest rates for operating lines of credit, equipment and real estate loans are the lowest the market has seen, although longer-term 20- and 30-year loans are experiencing some upward pressure, he said.

“For those seeking rates on equipment or real estate, those rates are at historical lows,” he said. “Some of these folks have never seen rates this low.”

According to Boyle, most creditors make loan decisions based on five key variables, known as the “5 Cs:”

• Capacity to repay a loan.

• Collateral to support the risk of a loan.

• Character that indicates commitment to repay the loan.

• Capital that reveals a borrower’s financial position to undertake a loan.

• Conditions in the marketplace and industry that promote financial expansion.

“Each institution has its own order of importance, but character, cash flow and collateral probably carry more weight now than they have in the past,” Tim Corzine, vice president of commercial relationship management at Oregon Pacific Bank, said.

Borrowers should have a good understanding of their financial position and capacity to repay loans before applying for credit, Boyle said. Creditors always look at earning ability and the means to generate enough money to repay a loan through employment or farm production.

For those with limited cash flow or collateral seeking loans, guaranteed loans backed by the USDA Farm Service Agency may be available. In situations where a bank might typically not lend funds, the FSA, which may guarantee up to 90 percent of a loan, will review a borrower’s credentials to weigh risks and determine if a reasonable level of confidence exists.

“Sometimes we might go a little longer term than we would normally, or if their credit rate is a little weak, we might decide to go ahead with the (Farm Service) guarantee backing the loan,” said Brian Castleman, vice president, senior commercial relationship manager at Oregon Pacific Bank.

The length of the application process depends on the size and complexity of the loan a borrower seeks, but Boyle suggested preparing an income statement based on tax returns for the previous three years and a cash flow budget outlining income and expenses projected during the 12 months following approval.

Winter brings lower biodiesel prices Wed, 6 Nov 2013 11:49:27 -0400 LACEY JARRELL Winter down time is typically the best time to purchase biodiesel in bulk, according to Dick Fennimore, Wilco petroleum department manager.

“The cheapest prices we’ve seen have been in December and January,” he said.

Biodiesel is rated according to its blend, a 5 percent blend is B5, a 100 percent blend is B99.

Wilco delivers biodiesel blends ranging from B20 to B99; the minimum delivery purchase is 100 gallons.

Fennimore said a 100-gallon purchase of B50 is 83 cents more per gallon than B5, but the per-gallon price gets lower when buying in larger quantities.

Biodiesel prices are more consistent than petroleum-based diesel, said Gavin Carpenter, vice president of sales and marketing of Sequential Biofuels.

“Prices are competitive if not less than regular diesel,” he said. “We were right about on par with last year’s (petroleum diesel).”

Biodiesel runs about 78 percent cleaner than petroleum diesel, emission wise, Carpenter said.

Because biodiesel has greater lubricity than petroleum diesel, it cleans fuel intake systems.

Today’s diesel contains less sulfur, which acted as a lubricant, meaning petroleum diesel can leave a build-up.

“Biodiesel is actually a solvent. Even a 2 percent blend of biodiesel will offset that and reduce wear and tear,” Carpenter said.

Biodiesel runs similar to petroleum-based diesel, but initial conversion may take some extra maintenance, according to Fennimore.

“When converting from B5 to at least a B20, we recommend having one or two extra fuel filters on hand,” he said.

Cold flow, or “gelling,” issues can arise with high blends exposed to temperatures lower than 30 degrees Fahrenheit, but gelling can be reduced by blending the fuel with petroleum-based diesel, said Carpenter.

Wilco also offers anti-gel additives, said Fennimore.

Most diesel in Oregon is a 5 percent biodiesel and 95 percent petroleum diesel blend, which should not gel.

West of the Cascades, gelling shouldn’t be an issue, said Carpenter. If B99 begins gelling, he said equipment should be placed in a garage or other shelter before starting. He said any biodiesel with a 20 percent or less blend should be fine year-round.

“When storing a (100 percent) blend, the tank should be heated and have a silicate vent so no moisture can enter,” Fennimore said.

According to Carpenter, another benefit of using biodiesel is it supports the region’s economy by sourcing materials from local businesses, they said.

SeQuential’s biodiesel, made from yellow grease like cooking and fryer oil, is collected from 7,000 Northwest restaurant and grocery locations.

“Biodiesel keeps every dollar in the region,” he said.

SeQuential has biofuel plants in Oregon and Washington. The Salem, Ore., facility has already produced 6 million gallons of biodiesel this year.

Five retail pumps in Portland, two in Eugene, and one in Aurora sell B99, but in winter months the company reduces that to a 50/50 blend.

Carpenter does not recommend making biodiesel at home because of flammability dangers and potential engine damage caused by fuel not made within the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) specifications.

Fix or replace equipment a key question Wed, 6 Nov 2013 11:46:17 -0400 LACEY JARRELL Equipment owners should think about whether they want a short- or long-term fix when considering whether to repair or replace equipment, said Don Kropf, owner of Linn Benton Tractor Co. in Tangent, Ore.

He said it may cost less to make a temporary a fix to complete a harvest, but additional maintenance and repairs can end up costing equipment owners more in the long run.

“If your costs are more than your payment, then it’s time to replace it,” said Billy Martin, sales manager at the Brim New Holland dealer in Salem, Ore. “When your down time is costing you money, it’s time to trade it in.”

When equipment owners are interested in repairing equipment rather than replacing it, Martin suggested seeking promotions like a pre-paid labor discount.

The hours can also be rolled over into next year, added New Holland service manager Boe Darras.

“If you bought prepaid labor this year, you might be able to use it toward your 2013 taxes, too,” he said.

Some parts and shop labor can also be used as a tax write off, according to Carl Laux, sales manager at the Papé John Deere dealer in Tangent, Ore. Laux said if equipment requires major repairs, owners should look at what expenses are financially large enough to warrant a trade-in or sale.

Harvesting annual crops can mean more mechanical repairs more often because the equipment typically sees more field hours than that used for other crops. Laux pointed out that crops like grain can wear combine augers, conveyor chains and thresh modules faster than grass seed harvests because the grain is more abrasive.

“Wheat is a high wear item on a machine,” Laux said. “If we have a rough harvest repairs are higher.”

At Papé, general manager Cory Carroll said post-harvest maintenance ensures equipment will be ready for start-up in spring, and he suggested owners bring machinery in for inspections and overhauls before putting it away for the winter. He said a typical overhaul for large equipment ranges from $5,000 to $7,000 and saves money by preventing breakdowns when machinery is needed the most.

“Ideally, we’d like them to bring equipment in now to have it ready for next harvest,” Carroll said.

Steve Danner, general manager at Ag West in Rickreall, Ore., said ground-engaging equipment, such as tillage headers and mower conditioners, typically wear out quickly and can be repaired, but only up to a point. When an implement’s structural integrity becomes compromised — like when frames crack or mounts and shank holders start wearing out — it’s time to consider replacing the item.

To avoid too much down time and concurrent expenses, Kropf advised keeping equipment, parts replacement and repairs on a rotation schedule so expenditures are cyclical and don’t surface all at once.

Best time to shop for equipment: Now Wed, 6 Nov 2013 11:43:14 -0400 LACEY JARRELL For farmers and ranchers looking to purchase new equipment, year-end promotions and tax deductions can offer incentives to buy.

“From now until the end of the year is always a strong time to buy,” said Don Kropf, owner of Linn-Benton Tractor Co. in Tangent, Ore. “Preseason programs are geared toward maximizing value.”

Most equipment sales receive a cash bonus or a low interest rate on financing, according to Carl Laux, sales manager at the Tangent, Ore., Papé dealership.

Laux added that leasing is also a good option for those who don’t want to or can’t afford to buy, although interest rates may be a little higher. Leasing also offers benefits like staying current on technology and reducing maintenance costs through full extended warranties.

Papé offers three-, four-, and five-year lease programs, with an option to buy when the lease term expires.

“When you are looking at a three-quarter ton combine that sells for $350,000, it can be a lot easier to write a lease check,” said Cory Carroll, general manager at Papé.

Before the end of the year, Carroll said, purchasers can take advantage of a Section 179 deduction under the American Taxpayers Relief Act. Section 179 allows full deductions and bonus depreciation for the full purchase price of financed or leased equipment and off-the-shelf software. To qualify, purchasers must buy or lease equipment and put it into service before Dec. 31, 2013. To find out more about Section 179, visit

Kropf suggested farmers begin meeting with dealers now, or at least well in advance of harvests, to discuss their needs for the next growing season and to review priorities and costs.

“A lot of the larger tractors have to be ordered months in advance,” he said.

Right now, 60- to 100-horsepower tractors are experiencing a nine-month lead time, according to Steve Danner, general manager at Ag West in Rickreall, Ore.

“Large horsepower equipment lead times are a little shorter — 230- to 600-horsepower generally only takes about three to four months.”

Many Northwest dealers are also offering incentives for used equipment, such as combines and big four-wheel-drives, in response to a glut caused by falling corn and soybean prices elsewhere, according to Laux. At the Tangent Papé store, the average age of used equipment is four to five years old, he said.

The region’s sales managers appear to agree that now is the time for those looking for new equipment to begin researching and reaching out to dealers. Manufacturers also take advantage of post-harvest down time to offer special promotions as farmers begin planning for the next harvest, according to Billy Martin, sales manager at Brim New Holland in Salem, Ore.

“The fourth quarter is usually the better time to buy because manufacturers will give you a better discount to clear inventory,” he said.