Farmers not hopeful about future

FARMERS are more pessimistic now than they have been for more than two years, according to a private survey.

The farmers say they feel this way in response to government policies and global economic uncertainty.

More farmers are expecting conditions to worsen rather than improve over the next year, according to the latest quarterly Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey, released yesterday.

The survey found that 35% of farmers expected conditions to worsen in the coming year, compared to 12% in the prior quarter.

Rabobank's Rural Australia general manager, Peter Knoblanche, said the fall in farmer confidence appeared to be influenced by factors outside the farm gate.

"Global market volatility and concerns about public policy issues were shown to have had the main dampening effect on farmer confidence this quarter," Mr Knoblanche said in a statement.

Nearly half of the farmers expecting conditions to worsen over the next year had nominated government interventionist policies as a major factor.

Farmers were concerned about the federal government's proposed carbon tax, the suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia and the effect of mining and coal seam gas exploration on agriculture.

Only 18% of farmers expected the agricultural economy to improve, compared to 42% in the prior quarter.

Conditions were expected to stay the same by 42% of farmers.

Just over half, 52%, of all farmers surveyed believed coal seam gas exploration to be a threat to agriculture.

Only 7% believed coal seam gas exploration to be an opportunity, while 40% were undecided.

Of those farmers who expected conditions to improve over the next year, 52% cited rising commodity prices as the main influence, and 46% cited favourable seasonal conditions.

Mr Knoblanche said seasonal conditions were generally good or average across Australia.

There has been sufficient rain to maintain winter crops and pasture growth, although average spring rainfall would be needed to guarantee a decent harvest.

According to the survey, farmer sentiment had weakened in all states, with Queensland farmers the least confident and Tasmanian farmers the most confident.

All sectors recorded a decline in confidence.

Cattle farmers were the least confident, and dairy farmers were the most confident.

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