It wasn’t too long ago when the thought of renting out their biggest assets would have seemed out of the question to most farmers. But with farm profits dropping, many of these same farmers are more willing to give such rental agreements a try.

Enter FarmLink, a Kansas City, Mo., company that allows farmers to rent out their unused equipment to growers hundreds of miles away who have different peak harvest seasons.

In an article by Alan Bjerga in Bloomberg Businessweek, The Sharing Economy Comes to the Farm, FarmLink’s president for grower services, Jeff Dema, explains why this practice is becoming more popular.

It’s Airbnb for agriculture. Farmers are examining their bottom lines and wondering if $500,000 in the shed might be put to better use.

Some benefits of FarmLink’s service are that farmer cooperatives and agricultural retailers set rental terms. Further, FarmLink will transport the heavy equipment, once a huge obstacle to renting out farm equipment. FarmLink also will help with any secondary insurance that may be needed.

With commodity prices tanking and farm profits falling from a peak of $124 billion in 2013, farmers are eager for ways to squeeze more money out of their combines and other heavy equipment, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy and maintain.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says while there is a growing effort to share farm equipment, the concept is not new. Contractors, custom harvest crews, and equipment-rental services already exist to help farmers in a pinch.

Although the concept may be appealing to some farmers, not everyone will be onboard with the program. After all, as the article states, allowing strangers to rent out such expensive equipment may still be a tough sell.

Ag Apps

It is rare to find a farmer these days that isn’t using a tablet or smartphone. So it should come as no surprise that the number of agricultural apps is on the rise.

Finding quality farming and agriculture apps can be a difficult task, however. This is unfortunate since there are so many quality apps out there that can make a farmer’s workload lighter.

One problem with finding quality farming apps is that it’s hard to know which agriculture apps are really useful. Thankfully, there are ways around this problem. For instance, AgWeb now has an app finder that allows users to search by category, such as markets, business, livestock, and crops.

What follows are some of the apps farmers list as their favorites. But remember, the most popular apps can change quickly – and new ones are popping up daily.

Ag PhD App Suite. This suite of apps includes a field guide, drainage calculator, planting population, a harvest loss calculator, and more.

AgWeb. This app features market news, weather, and other ag-related content. It also is interactive – allowing users to choose the specific content they are interested in.

Climate Basic. From The Climate Corporation, this app enables users to track up-to-the-minute, field-level information such as weather forecasts, soil conditions, and crop growth stage. Farmers also are able to add their own notes and field alerts.

Farm Futures. Farm Futures magazine’s app provides an overview of agriculture news and headlines, along with podcasts.

FarmLogs. Farmers can collect and log detailed information on a per-field basis with this app. Rainfall history, budgets, and inventory management are just some of the information farmers can track using FarmLogs.

Grower’s Edge. Offering a variety of functions, this app includes access to cash prices, market quotes and commentary, news, and weather.

Pioneer/Encirca View. Encirca View allows farmers to record field observations which are then georeferenced for their convenience. When used with the Encirca View website, users also are able to access aggregated data from other Encirca View users.

TractorHouse. A simple way to buy or sell a tractor. The TractorHouse app allows users to browse or list equipment by make, model, price, and location.

Wendell Berry once wrote, “Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live.”

Unfortunately, many farmers say that the rules and regulations coming out of Washington today are making it tougher than ever to farm. A hundred years ago, almost one in three Americans worked on a farm. Today, less than three percent of Americans work on farms. During this same time period, the number of farms decreased from almost seven million to two million.

Of course, the decrease in farmers and farms can be attributed to a number of factors, including larger farming operations that have taken over many family farms and migration to the cities. However, many farmers say that they have grown weary of rules and regulations that seem to have little to do with farming and more to do with red tape.

According to Dwight Koops, president of Kansas-based Crop Quest, increasing regulation is one of the most frustrating trends in agriculture today.

“Immense pressure is being put on farmers to track the origin of all commodities and products grown for consumption,” Koops says. “The technology and paper trail that this will require will vastly change how and what gets accomplished on a typical farm operation in the future. The cost to producers and consumers will be a huge burden as well.”

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation agrees. In a January speech he noted that, “As damaging as the weather or economic winds can be, farmers’ and ranchers‘ biggest challenge these days seem to come from their government.”

Stallman went on to say that while farmers and ranchers care deeply about the environment, excessive restrictions and regulatory costs will prevent them from sustaining the nation’s food supply. In short, farming and ranching will become economically unsustainable.

Many farmers say they are worried that they will be regulated out of farming. They add that complying with all the new regulations will mean that they will not be able to turn a profit. While these farmers understand that some rules and regulations are necessary, excessive regulation is running small and family farms straight out of business.