U.S. farmers are gloomy about their immediate prospects, but more upbeat about the future, according to a new agricultural confidence index.

The DTN/The Progressive Farmer Agriculture Confidence Index released April 19 aims to capture the pulse of the agricultural economy. It's based on a survey of 500 producers picked at random to reflect the demographic makeup of the 2007 USDA Ag Census.

The initial ag confidence index was measured at 34.2; any score below 50 indicates pessimism.

The survey pegged farmers' attitude about the present situation at 30 and expectations about the future at 36.9.

The pessimism is perhaps understandable, given how much crop and livestock prices have fallen since 2008.

"I'm not surprised (the indexes) are in the 30s, but I'm a little surprised they are in the high 30s in expectations," John Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union, said in a press release from DTN/The Progressive Farmer.

The survey will be conducted three times a year -- before planting, before harvest and at year's end.

-- Dave Wilkins

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