COMMENT: Tough conditions mark the 2017 cropping season

WHO would be a farmer? If you asked that question during National Agriculture Day last week a lot of people would raise their hand and talk up the attributes of primary industries.

Ask that question this week after a fierce hail storm swept across the Riverina and people might start shaking their heads. 

The winter cropping season of 2017 could go down in history as one of the toughest we have seen. There was no drought, but it was dry.

There was no flood but it was wet. Fire activity was limited but growers still got “burned” and then it rained. And when it rained it was at all of the wrong times. 

And now there are more threats to contend with. The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast big falls of rain later this week.

For crops still on the ground it isn’t good. And for crops that aren’t ready to harvest it isn’t good either.

So now there is a literal “race against the clock” going on in southern NSW with farmers and contractors doing their best to bring the crop in and deliver it to the silos. 

For many the 2017 winter crop harvest will be one they want to see the end of. Complete it and move to next year. 

One of the heartening flip-sides to this issue that emerged this week was the fact many producers had insured their crops.

Most for hail, and others had taken the additional step of securing multi-peril insurance. 

Insurance assessors were kept busy from one end of the region to the other in helping growers lodge claims and determine the full extent of the damage. 

Hail and seasonal conditions aside there were still bright lights to talk up in the livestock sectors.

Saleyard prices were mostly firm and the wool markets remained strong.

For winter crops that were affected by frost earlier in the season there had been an opportunity to secure some store stock and graze the affected areas.

This was an opportunity to turn what were essentially failed crops into some handy stock feed. 

So is it safe to ask who would be a farmer? 

Potentially yes. And if lessons are to be learned from history this season will be put to the past and growers will move forward. Earlier in the year a Riverina agronomist noted that crops were performing better than expected due to improved farming techniques.