National Farmers' Federation

NFF warns against short-sighted migration plans

The National Farmers’ Federation has warned proposals to cap migration will exacerbate agriculture’s workforce challenges and there are better ways to address the housing crisis.

In the Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s post-budget address, he revealed plans to slash worker migration, a move NFF President David Jochinke said could deal a heavy blow to Australia’s agricultural sector.

Mr Jochinke welcomed the Opposition’s commitment to reintroduce the dedicated Agriculture Visa. However, given the proposed cuts to skilled migration, this visa must be designed to meet the skilled workforce needs of the sector.

“Agriculture is the second highest proportional user of skilled visa workers, trailing only the IT sector and surpassing industries such as mining and hospitality,” Mr Jochinke said.

“At a time when we should be boosting our workforce to stay competitive globally, reducing our intake of skilled migrants is a backward step.”

The NFF urged political leaders to consider the implications of cutting migration and instead incorporate the farm sector into a strategy to help resolve the housing crisis by boosting the regional housing mix of on-farm worker accommodation and traditional housing through:

  • Allowing farms to claim instant asset write-offs for on-farm accommodation.
  • Accessing farm management deposits for accommodation construction.
  • Providing accommodation to workers without triggering Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) liabilities.
  • Reducing red tape by encouraging state governments to streamline local planning regulations.
  • Ensure the Government’s $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund focuses on the regions.

“By incentivising on-farm accommodation and reducing regulatory barriers, we can boost productivity and support regional development,” Mr Jochinke said. “Each house built on-farm releases another house in regional towns for nurses, teachers, and workers in other industries.”

“We need strategic and smart solutions to the housing crisis, not politically convenient quick fix solutions that will only create another problem – debilitating farmers’ ability to grow food and fibre.

“Farmers can play a crucial role in creating sustainable housing solutions, alleviating pressure on regional housing markets and reducing the need for workers to travel long distances.

“We urge the government and opposition to consider the long-term implications of their migration policies on the agricultural sector and the wider economy.

“Australia’s migration program should be strategic and responsive to the needs of key industries like agriculture.”