"THERE has never been a better time to be a farmer," Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig has told the ABARES Outlook Conference today.
It's news that might surprise some farmers fighting floods in Queensland, Victoria and NSW but according to Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resources Economics and Sciences forecast farm cash incomes are on the rise.
ABARES executive director Paul Morris said in a statement the industry's outlook was positive.
"Assuming that favourable seasonal conditions continue, earnings from farm exports are forecast to be around $35.1 billion in 2012-13, after an estimated rise of 9.4 per cent to $35.5 billion in 2011-12," Mr Morris said.
"In 2012-13, agricultural commodities for which export earnings are forecast to rise include canola (2 per cent), raw cotton (9 per cent), wine (5 per cent), beef and veal (1 per cent) and sheep meat (22 per cent)."
ABARES assistant secretary of biosecurity and farm analysis Bruce Bowen said farmers' financial positions had been boosted by above-average rainfall.
"It is the first time for more than 30 years that we expect positive average farm business profits in all states and all industries, for broadacre farms," Mr Bowen said.
"Western Australia is projected to have the largest increase in farm cash income in 2011-12 at around 20 per cent, while the average farm cash income for Australian sheep farms is expected to be the highest in real terms since 1988-89.
"The good seasonal conditions have resulted in a substantial improvement in the productive capacity of Australian agriculture as seen with the significant rebuilding of livestock numbers, the continued strong investment in farm capital, and the current high levels of irrigation and on-farm water supplies," Mr Bowen said.
National Farmers Federation president Jock Laurie said 2012 was looking positive.
"This is a very positive picture for Australian farmers, compared to the drought conditions we have faced over the previous decade," Mr Laurie said.
"Obviously, many farmers and rural communities across eastern Australia are currently facing flood conditions, which have already caused millions, if not billions, of dollars damage to crops, livestock and vital infrastructure like roads, railways and fences.
"This is a very difficult time for affected farmers – and we can only hope that in the long-term, these floods will return moisture to the soil and help set up those farmers for good future seasons. After all, farmers are very resilient," Mr Laurie said.
Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig told the conference this morning there was "no better time to be a farmer".
He outlined the government's agenda for agriculture which included creating a strong bio-security system, the government's Carbon Farming Initiative and developing the country's first National Food Plan.
He said food security was a key focus of the government.
"Australia produces more than twice the food we consume. The trade surplus on food was around $16.5 billion in 2010-11,” Mr Ludwig said.
He said the National Food Plan would look at securing food production and supply chains. It will consider the effect of land use pressures like housing and mining, foreign land ownership and the role of supermarkets in the supply chain.
Mr Ludwig said the Green Paper on the plan would be released later this year.