25 Jul 2013

Farmers' confidence on the up, survey shows

7:12 pm on 25 July 2013

Another rural confidence survey has shown a turnaround in New Zealand farmers' expectations for the economy and their own businesses.

The Federated Farmers survey asked 647 farmers across all the main farming groups what their expectations were for the new season.

More than a third expected the economy would improve in the next 12 months and a similar number expected their own farm's profitability to rise.

Six months ago, most farmers were negative about the prospects for the wider economy and very pessimistic about their own farm's fortunes.

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills welcomed the more optimistic outlook and said it was consistent with other recent surveys.

"There is, as we expected, quite a different in the confidence level between dairy and the rest of the pack. Dairy is running along very strongly at the moment based on some pretty optimistic projections," Mr Wills said.

While it's dairy farmers who have the brightest outlook, sheep and beef farmers outlook has also improved - with 40% expecting their business to become more profitable this season.

But Mr Wills said those confidence levels have come from a very low base.

He said the drought means that there will be significantly fewer sheep to be sold this year, something like 2 million fewer lambs and 1 million fewer ewes, which will mean a corresponding lift in price.

Mr Wills said the farmers were surveyed on what they thought should be the Government's top priority and 15% said it should be focusing on fiscal policy and reducing spending.

Only two of the 647 farmers surveyed identified climate change policy as their chief concern, that's down from a third of farmers who identified it as their chief concern in a survey three years ago.

Federated Farmers said the fall is because farmers agree with the Government's actions - which have seen the Emissions Trading Scheme neutered while the Government's also walked away from its international commitments to reduce emissions.

Mr Wills said he wasn't surprised climate change has fallen off the radar with farmers since the last survey - and claims policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions wouldn't make a difference.