National Farmers' Federation

Farmers asked to report worker shortages in campaign for Ag Visa

Last summer, Hobart region, strawberry grower, David Jennings was forced to leave 350 tonnes of strawberries to rot because he could not find enough workers to pick them.
Likewise, Perth berry farmer, Anthony Yewers had no choice but to forsake 30% of his mixed berry crop.
These stories and more are being shared as part of a new campaign by the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) to highlight the critical need for an agricultural-specific visa (Ag Visa).
NFF President Fiona Simson said the peak body was buoyed by Prime Minister Morrison’s recent re-commitment to bringing an Ag Visa to fruition but more work was needed.
“The Government requires additional information about the extent of agriculture’s labour shortage crisis and exactly what jobs are going unfilled.
“We know stories like that of David, Anthony and their families are all too common but we need the hard data.”
Ms Simson said the NFF was calling on all farm employers to complete the National Harvest Labour Information Service survey.
“The one-page form asks farmers how many workers they require and for what tasks. It should take no more than 10 minutes to complete.”
The NFF has been advocating for an Ag Visa for almost two years, to complement the existing visa programs used by farmers.
Ms Simson said when there was a lack of domestic labour, farmers sourced international workers through the Working Holiday Maker Visa Programme and the Seasonal Worker Programme.
“Our strong preference is to see Australians filling Aussie farm jobs.
“However, lots of farm work is labour intensive, not available all year around and therefore not suited to some Australian job seekers.
“The Working Holiday Maker Visa and the Seasonal Worker Programme are successful to an extent but they cannot adequately meet agriculture’s labour needs,” Ms Simson said.
An Ag Visa would diversify the countries from which workers are sourced, and allow visa holders to move between different farm businesses – depending where and when the work is available.
“International workers with a genuine interest in agricultural work would be encouraged to apply for an Ag Visa and be assisted to transition from unskilled work to skilled positions,” Ms Simson said.
An Ag Visa is intended to complement the Working Holiday Maker Visa, the Seasonal
Worker Programme and the many initiatives designed to see more Australians take up farm jobs.
“At the heart of the agricultural visa program is the building a long-term farm workforce, including pathways to permanent residency for successful ag visa holders and their families,” Ms Simson said.

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