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‘There has rarely been a better time to be a grazier’ – farmer confidence surges

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Confidence levels have surged among Victorian and NSW farmers thanks to record beef, lamb and mutton prices, and favourable seasonal conditions in Victoria and the NSW Riverina, a survey shows.

The rising farmer optimism is welcome news for regional and state economies, with confident farmers much more likely, and capable, of investing in new equipment and infrastructure such as vehicles, shedding and fencing; spending that ripples across the economy.

Rabobank's latest survey shows confidence has surged among livestock producers. Rabobank’s latest survey shows confidence has surged among livestock producers. Photo: Cody Whiteman

Cashed-up farmers are also much more likely to expand and buy more land, with flow-on benefits to farmland prices.

Rabobank’s Todd Charteris said strong prices in the beef and sheep sectors were major drivers of the bullish sentiment.

“There has rarely been a better time to be a grazier, with prices for beef, lamb and mutton continuing to hit new records, and wool prices also at a historical high – albeit back down from its recent peak,” he said.

Rabobank’s latest Rural Confidence Survey, to be released on Tuesday, found 34 per cent of Victorian farmers expect conditions in the agricultural economy to improve over the next year, up from 27 per cent in the previous survey.

A further 55 per cent of Victorian farmers quizzed in the survey forecast stable conditions over the next year.

Confidence levels among NSW farmers have also jumped, with beef and sheep graziers the most positive. Optimism has also risen strongly among cotton producers.

Merinos outside the shearing shed at the Nareeb Nareeb property in Victoria's Western District. Merinos outside the shearing shed at the Nareeb Nareeb property in Victoria’s Western District. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

Among NSW farmers surveyed, 32 per cent said they expected conditions in the agricultural economy to improve over the next year.

Rabobank said a “fantastic” start to the season in Victoria had propelled Victorian farmer confidence to a two-year high.

Farmers, and their dogs, are jumping for joy over the high prices for livestock. Farmers, and their dogs, are jumping for joy over the high prices for livestock. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

Rabobank’s regional manager for southern Victoria & Tasmania, Hamish McAlpin, said the autumn break had benefited all commodity sectors, particularly grain growers.

“The winter crop, which is nearly all in the ground, has been sown into fantastic conditions,” he said.

Rabobank's latest survey shows confidence has surged among livestock producers. Rabobank’s latest survey shows confidence has surged among livestock producers. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer

“The sheep and beef sector is having its ‘place in the sun’, with the triple whammy of high prices, good seasonal conditions and the low cost of fodder.

“While wool prices have come back off their recent peak, they remain historically strong, and beef, lamb and mutton prices have continued to trade at record levels.”

More evidence of Australia’s strong agriculture sector emerged last week, when ABS figures revealed that exports of rural goods rose $840 million (7 per cent) in the March quarter.

National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson welcomed the buoyant findings of the Rabobank survey. “It is a confident industry and it’s great to see,” she said.

Strong levels of investment intentions among farmers was very positive for the industry, she said.

“It brings people into our industry, it keeps people in our industry,” she said.

“Certainty for agriculture is certainty for regional economies. It sees dollars being spent in our regional towns, it sees investment in farming land from current farmers and people who might want to enter the industry.” 

The Rabobank survey found that nationwide, 31 per cent of farmers expect their gross incomes will increase over the next year, while 48 per cent expect little change.

Farmers also expressed a willingness to invest, with 27 per cent saying they expected to increases their investment in their business over the next year.

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