National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson has implored the Government to expand its focus when negotiating partner countries for the Ag Visa.
Speaking at a NSW Farm Writers event in Sydney today, Ms Simson said faster progress was needed on the visa, as announced by the Government last September.
“We welcomed the Government’s committment, led by Minister Littleproud, to bring the Visa to fruition, after more than five years of advocacy by the NFF.
“The news came as a relief to farmers who continue to battle debilitating workforce shortages, made worse by COVID-induced border closures.
“There is no doubt the task of securing partner countries is complex and we acknowledge the hard work of Ministers Littleproud and Payne to date.
“As negotiations continue, we urge the Government to not be blinkered and consider other nations and regions who would benefit from being a part of Australia’s AgVisa,” Ms Simson said.
The AgVisa will complement the existing Pacific Worker Scheme, Seasonal Worker and Working Holidaymaker Programs and the domestic farm workforce.
“Farmers are welcoming backpackers return to farm and continue to value the contribution of Pacific workers,” Ms Simson said.
“However, an AgVisa is desperately needed to complement these programs by providing farmers, particularly small family farms, additional workforce options.”
The core tenets of the AgVisa, as advocated for by the NFF, is the ability for visa holders to move between farms depending on labour needs, and importantly, only accredited farmers would be able to access the program.
Ms Simson said with a federal election looming the NFF was calling for a commitment by both parties vying for Government, to finalise 10 AgVisa partner countries in the first year in office.