Farmers demand clarity on worker policy

The state’s peak agricultural body says Labor needs to clearly explain how it will address ongoing workforce shortages.

Farmers have struggled with a lack of seasonal workers throughout the pandemic, and while the Coalition has pledged to deliver the Ag Visa, Labor continues to dodge the question.

With a tight election result predicted and regional NSW seats critical for whoever forms government, NSW Farmers Horticulture Committee member Chris Stillard said farmers were demanding a straight answer from Labor.

“Workforce shortages are a huge problem for farmers after two years of COVID lockdowns, and if we don’t have workers for harvest, farmers lose income, there’s less food in the supply chain, and everyone suffers,” Mr Stillard said.

“Perishable fruit and vegetables have a short harvest window, sometimes just a few weeks.

“But this is broader than horticulture – harvest work is highly seasonal, you need workers when harvest is ready, you can’t just wait for people to turn up.”

On Friday, Federal Labor immigration spokeswoman Kristina Keneally told The Sydney Morning Herald her party would “end the nation’s dependence on short-term visa holders”.

Mr Stillard said NSW Farmers would happily invite any potential Labor minister to visit a farm and learn firsthand how reducing foreign worker availability would cripple agriculture.

“People in the bush need to know what impact a potential Labor government would have on them well before the election,” Mr Stillard said.

“Our Workforce 10 Point Plan clearly sets out improvements to domestic workforce arrangements need to happen, but we need it balanced with backpackers and other international workers.

“We are already seeing farmers having to scale back because of a lack of workers – failure to get this right will pull the handbrake on agriculture and derail our efforts to build a stronger future for farming.”

/Public Release. View in full here.