The National Farmers’ Federation Horticulture Council has announced its five policy priorities ahead of the Federal Election.
The Horticulture Council, which represents the collective $15 billion Horticulture industry through its 21 industry members, says workforce is still its top priority for the sector.
The top priorities for the Council are –
• Implement a fully operational Agriculture Visa
• Implement a National Labour Hire Licencing Scheme
• Implement a Biosecurity Imports Levy and/or an ongoing funding model for biosecurity
• Extension of the instant asset write off
• Develop a strategic investment plan for regional accommodation
“Workforce continues to be the major issue affecting the Australian Horticulture industry and solving labour supply issues by allowing growers access to a reliable and efficient workforce, tops the list for the Council,” NFF Horticulture Council chair Fiona Simson said.
“This is why implementing a fully operational Australian Agriculture Visa must be a priority for the Coalition and for the ALP this election. It’s great that we have Vietnam signed up, but we need to get more countries signed on and get people on the ground and on farms.”
The Horticulture industry employs more than 130,000 people nationally each year with a mix of Australian workers and temporary migrants, however the Agriculture Visa provides an opportunity for growers to access a reliable and competent workforce for their farming operation.
The Council also said the implementation of a National Labour Hire Licencing Scheme is critical for the sector.
“The horticulture industry has a long history of using labour hire businesses to access its workforce, and the Council and its members have long called for a licencing scheme to help stamp out any dodgy operators,” M Simson said.
The ALP committed to a National Labour Hire Licencing Scheme before the 2019 election, while the Coalition committed to a National Labour Hire Registration Scheme, but it is has yet to be implemented.
“The time for talk on this issue is over. The time for action is now,” Ms Simson said.
“The Council is calling for a licencing scheme that means labour hire contractors must demonstrate they are fit and proper and receive a licence before they operate.”
Regional accommodation is also a big issue for many key horticulture growing areas as many businesses search for suitable accommodation for their workers, whether it be short-term accommodation options or long-term.
The Council is calling for the major parties to commit to developing a strategic investment plan for regional accommodation within its first year of government.
Biosecurity also continues to be a major concern for the Horticulture sector with a lack of consistent funding for plant biosecurity.
The Horticulture sector has been struck by many disease and pests recently including Citrus Canker, Fall Army Worm and Banana Tropical Race 4.
“We must protect our horticulture industry from pests and diseases and there have been too many outbreaks recently which we must address,” she said.
“Biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility, and we must implement an ongoing funding model for biosecurity.”
The Council is also calling for an extension to the instant asset write off beyond the current ending date of June 30, 2022.
“Horticulture, along with many other agriculture businesses, have used the instant asset write off to help reinvest in their business and drive greater productivity on-farm,” she said.
“This is a simple ask and it should be committed to by both parties so growers can have some confidence to continue to reinvest in their business.”
For more about the National Farmers’ Federation Horticulture Council click here.