Speaking with a united voice has delivered a big win for horticulture with the announcement to changes to visa arrangements for backpackers and seasonal labour.
Lifting the cap on working holiday maker places, and for the seasonal worker program, will give Australian farmers greater access to seasonal labour during harvest and other peak periods. Having access to a productive workforce is essential to our desire to grow the value of Australian agriculture to $100 billion by 2030.
We acknowledge the government has listened to the concerns of industry and developed a response in line with industry demands. We will continue to lobby for an Agricultural Visa to manage the longer-term needs of the sector – for now, however, the changes announced will help us manage the pressing labour challenges of the sector.
Australian farmers always prefer to engage local workers when they are available, however in the majority of times, locals don’t apply. We are not work for the dole providers – where the government wants to see long-term unemployed engaged in farm work, they should support the grower to provide skilling and training opportunities to aid the productivity not just of the farm, but most importantly for the farm worker.
There are many different jobs to be done on a farm and some farms operate with a small staff for 90 per cent of the year. However, when the harvest is on, it is all hands on deck – while many hands make light work, it is equally important that we are focussed on productivity and getting the job done quickly and safely.
NSW Farmers’ Horticulture Committee chair