WIMMERA farmers are cautiously optimistic about the season ahead, as sowing starts across the region.
Murra Warra farmer David Jochinke said thing were looking positive off the back of a decent season last year.
Rain this week has helped increase his confidence - even if it has slowed down cropping.
"It's been excellent," he said.
"It's been a stop-start week - we only just got into sowing. We were up and rolling Saturday, now we're playing the waiting game.
"A lot of people have started sowing, or were waiting for this front to come through. It's very much a continuation of their planning."
Mr Jochinke said a good start allowed him to use a full array of fertiliser and more premium herbicide.
"There's a lot of confidence it's not going to be a false start," he said.
Rupanyup farmer Andrew Weidemann has started sowing and is about 20 per cent done.
Mr Weidemann said it was a wetter sowing season than what many in the region would be used to, and the year ahead looked positive.
"We had good summer rain, and there's good storage of moisture for a dry spring," he said.
"Over the past decade we've had a run of really dry springs."
Mr Weidemann has had success with controlling weeds now, which he said would take pressure off later in the year.
With the cold and wet conditions set to continue, there could be further positives.
Mr Weidemann said mice were in plague proportions in some paddocks.
He said the cold weather should slow down the rodents before they could graze crops and cause damage.
Mr Weidemann was Victorian Farmers Federation grains group president during the 2010-11 mouse plague.
He said the mice now were more centralised and not yet at the same numbers as those years.
"The cold, wet weather is certainly going to help," he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily affected the supply of chemicals for farms.
But Mr Weidemann said with the rain slowing down the sowing season, plus shipments of chemicals to Melbourne earlier this week and due at the start of May, it wasn't a huge issue.
But he said it was disappointing to see a drop in the wool market as a flow-on effect of the virus.
He said lamb and mutton prices were holding up strong values, but he expected lamb to improve as air freight started again.
The federal government has announced a $110 million International Freight Assistance package to secure more freight flights and help producers export into key overseas markets.
Hundreds of emergency flights will fly fresh produce to to China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
Where possible, the planes will return loaded with medical supplies and pharmaceuticals Australia needs to fight the disease.
About 90 per cent of Australian air freight usually goes out in the bellies of passenger planes.
"A lot of us have had to come to grips with how much freight is airlifted," Mr Weidemann said.
"It's just come to the fore.
"Lamb is off a bit where it was last year but as freight starts to move again that will help us."
Mr Weidemann said from a personal point of view, the coronavirus had only had a small effect on his property.
He had made minor changes on his farm, such as supplying workers with hand sanitiser, ensuring people didn't share vehicles, and making people call ahead to visit the property.
"It only really affecting us from a sporting angle," he said. "We're in isolation pretty much anyway."
Mr Jochinke said social distancing measures created a challenge getting things ready to go on his property.
He said it also affected him through his position as Victorian Farmers Federation president.
The federation office is closed and people are working off-site.
Mr Jochinke said members were using on video conferencing site Zoom to keep in touch.
"That's been a learning curve for us," he said.
But Mr Jochinke said the pandemic had brought agriculture to the forefront of many people's minds.
He said people were starting to realise the value the industry gave to the community.
"It's not necessarily an opportunity to be high and mighty, but an opportunity to continue conversation about people power and how important it is to buy Australian-made," he said.
"Whenever buying a product look at the label - if there's a label it's bringing jobs, it's bringing economic stimulus.
"That domestic production is completely irreplaceable. Pick up the label, have a quick read and buy Australian.
"Agriculture is something for the whole community to be proud of."
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