AgForce has welcomed a Federal Government move to introduce an agriculture-specific visa - but will continue to push for more to be done to ease crippling workforce shortages on farms.
Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud announced the Ag Visa will come into force from 30 September 2021, widening the recruitment opportunities for an uncapped number of low to highly skilled workers from ASEAN countries - with plans to extend the visa to other countries.
This is a significant step towards solving the farm sector’s enduring workforce crisis with a bespoke visa designed to meet the industry’s many and varied skill needs – from grain and wool to fishing, dairy forestry and fruit and vegetables.
However, AgForce believes there is still more to be done.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus, farmers’ reliance on an international workforce, particularly during the peak seasonal work periods, and we need a multipronged approach to bring certainty back to accessing labour and having confidence of staffing being available when needed.
While the Ag Visa that AgForce and others have been advocating strongly for is an important element in this, the fact still remains that Queensland’s horticulture sector is currently as many as 9,000 workers short.
In addition, earlier this year the Federal Government further exacerbated the farm labour shortage by changing the rules for backpackers seeking to extend their Working Holiday Maker visas to second and third years - allowing them to complete their 88 days work not just on farms but now in the tourism and hospitality sectors in northern and remote Australia as well.
AgForce will be continuing to work with both State and Federal Governments to operationalise Ag Visa, but we will also work on other parts of the solution, such as further refinement to the Pacific Labour Scheme.