The survey found that 30 per cent of farmers were expecting the agricultural economy to improve in the coming year, down from 40 per cent with that view in the previous quarter, while those expecting conditions to deteriorate rose to 24 per cent, from 15 per cent.
Peter Knoblanche, Rabobank group executive for Country Banking Australia, said the mood heading into winter had improved for parts of the country that had good rainfall, but not so much for the areas continuing to experience long periods of dry weather.
“For many farmers though, there’s a strong degree of confidence about what’s happening inside the farm gate. The general easing in farmer sentiment can be attributed more to increased concerns about external factors, including a weakening in some commodity prices as well as global oversupply issues in the dairy and grains sectors,” he said.
For 51 per cent of farmers with a negative outlook for the 12 months ahead, falling commodity prices were listed as the main reason for concern, compared with 42 per cent in the last survey. Seasonal conditions were also a significant worry, though mainly among farmers in Queensland and New South Wales.
Not all farmers were concerned about commodity prices, with rising prices chosen by 49 per cent of those who expected improved conditions in the year ahead. Good seasonal conditions were the top reason for confidence, nominated by 51 per cent.
Despite a decline in confidence in the outlook for the agricultural economy, Australian farmers remained upbeat about their own on-farm prospects. This quarter, 33 per cent of the nation’s farmers expected their own farm business performance to improve, while 37 per cent expected performance to remain the same as last year.
Dairy farmers remain the most optimistic sector when it comes to prospects within their own farm business, with 44 per cent expecting improvement in the year ahead, and just 18 per cent expecting worsening performance.
The next results are scheduled for release in December 2014.
Should farmers be concerned?
While falling commodity prices and seasonal conditions are causing concern among many farmers, not all farmers are concerned - 49 per cent expect improved conditions ahead.