Amid the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, one thing is certain: agriculture needs to continue operating to ensure consumers have access to Australia's high quality food and fibre.
NSW Farmers is working alongside the National Farmers' Federation in raising critical issues with state and federal governments to ensure there is no interruption to agricultural supply chains.
As an essential service, agriculture needs certainty that freight and essential business services are not impeded so that consumer demand for food is met.
This involves identifying the individual aspects of supply chain inputs, such as fuel, worker movements between states, fertiliser, seeds, and machinery maintenance, along with distribution of product to processors and ensure business continuity is assured.
The health and safety of workers is the number one priority, and workplace health and safety protocols will need to account for new conditions created by the restriction of movement across the community.
NSW Farmers is working with the NFF to gain clarity from government around new protocols for farm workers in light of the virus' spread.
Farmers understand the importance of strict biosecurity measures, but it is essential that the critical production and distribution of food is not adversely impacted at this time.
This will involve ongoing consultation with the agriculture and freight industry, as well as planning to ensure the supply chain is not compromised. Agricultural inputs, machinery and labour will all be key considerations.
Ultimately, it is essential that food supply chains continue "business as usual" at this time, and NSW Farmers welcomes the opportunity to work with industry and government to ensure this happens.
- James Jackson is the NSW Farmers president