Farmers optimistic for 2017

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Australian farmer confidence is at historically high levels, aided by good conditions and reliable prices, according to the Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey conducted in the third quarter of this year.

Cotton and sugar producers have been found to have the most upbeat expectations for the coming year, with beef and sheep farmers also steadily optimistic, and dairy farmers displaying a strong upswing in confidence.

Conversely, there is worry among grain farmers after frost damage wreaked havoc in Western Australia, and heavy rain dampened the eastern states’ outlook.

Last quarter, the survey found farmers far more optimistic than before, which has led to the current result of steady, strong confidence.

Rabobank Country Banking Australia national manager Todd Charteris says rain has been both a blessing and a curse for farmers in Australia’s eastern states.

"Much of the country is experiencing a good season, following the second wettest winter on record, and a wet start to spring," Charteris says.

"That said, the rain has been excessive in northern Tasmania and parts of New South Wales and Victoria, with flooding causing waterlogging of pastures and crops, which has led to some pretty significant downgrades to crop yields."

He adds that WA saw damaged confidence due to harsh frosts, which caught farmers off-guard: "The Western Australian crop has also been hit by mother nature, with the crop now expected to be three million tonnes down on earlier projections due to early spring frosts."

Charteris says the extra rain was good for bolstering water availability and for keeping cotton farmers happy – 62 per cent of whom are expecting improved conditions next year.

"The rain has not only spurred a large dryland plant this year, it has also shored up water availability for irrigators, which has facilitated the largest planting in five years – nearly double that of last year," he says.

"The market is also looking favourable, with domestic prices now trading up around $500 a bale."

In addition to the industry outlook, the Rabobank survey provided an insight into the need for agricultural training and education, as 34 per cent of farmers say they are looking to improve their skills and knowledge over the coming year.

Improving management practices is the highest priority for those, with 75 per cent saying they are interested in maximising crop and livestock productivity, while 57 per cent are interested in education based around new technologies.

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