As drought conditions worsen across New South Wales and with no real reprieve in sight any time soon, farmer's confidence has plummeted, latest data has revealed.
The latest Rabobank Rural Confidence Survey two-in-five farmers expecting conditions to further worsen, while 25 per cent expect little change in their current circumstances.
Confidence was shown to be down across commodity sectors and regions in the state - with the drought cited by almost all (97 per cent) as primary reason for their negative outlook.
The survey, released September 10, found 44 per cent of farmers surveyed in NSW expect conditions in the agricultural economy to deteriorate over the coming 12 months - an increase on the 31 per cent with that view in the June quarter.
ALSO MAKING NEWS: Thousands brave the cold to see what was on the menu at Trundle
The number with a positive outlook declined to just 17 per cent (from 29 per cent last survey).
This saw the NSW rural confidence index drop to a net reading of -27 per cent to lag well behind the rest of the country.
Rabobank regional manager for Central New South Wales Toby Mendl said there had been "very little rain of note" anywhere in the state during winter, with areas such as Dubbo only receiving half their average rainfall this year.
"While farmers know it will rain, the longer the drought wears on, the longer it will take to recover when the season breaks," he said.
"Although current strong commodity prices and low interest rates will certainly help."
ALSO MAKING NEWS: Homestead open day aims to raise funds for Dolly's Dream Foundation
For winter croppers, Mr Mendl said, there will need to be a fair amount of rain to lift the soil moisture profile to plant next year's crop with confidence, while rain will be needed for those in the north of the state if they are to plant a summer crop.
And for graziers, he said, it would take two or three years to rebuild herds.
The survey, completed last month, found sentiment had taken the biggest tumble in the state's grains sector, with 59 per cent expecting little change or a further deterioration in conditions.
Mr Mendl said despite 95 per cent of NSW drought affected, the rural property market continued to hold up - indicating underlying confidence in the agriculture sector.
ALSO MAKING NEWS: Star-studded cast announced for the 2020 Parkes Elvis Festival
"Properties are generally still achieving strong prices, even in drought areas and they continue to attract multiple buyers, which is currently underpinning the market," he said.
This was reflected in the survey results, Mr Mendl said, particularly among larger farming businesses (with annual gross incomes above $1 million), where 31 per cent were intending to increase their level of investment.
Of those, 60 per cent were looking at rural property purchase.