PRESSURE is easing on the looming agricultural workforce shortage, with the federal government developing a nationally consistent approach to ag worker restrictions and reopening Pacific Island working visas.
Many regions are expecting an above average crop, however face a serious labour shortage due to both state and international border restrictions.
The National Cabinet agreed to develop an Agricultural Workers Code, which will aim to provide practical and sensible solutions to the problems regional communities face due to state border restrictions.
The code is expected to be presented to the state premiers at the next National Cabinet meeting in two weeks.
Queensland announces agribusiness border exemption
NSW has put in place a permit system for ag workers along its Victorian border, while Queensland announced it will roll out a similar system on its NSW border.
The new Queensland/NSW border agribusiness exemption, allows NSW residents to enter Queensland to perform essential agribusiness services or provide timely veterinary services or care for livestock.
However, if you must provide a copy of the Chief Health Officer class exemption letter, evidence of your identity, confirming place of residence, and evidence you are an agribusiness essential worker, for example, a letter of employment, evidence of property ownership or lease.
NSW Agricultural Minister, Adam Marshall said after weeks of lobbying by the NSW Government, the Queensland Government has finally caved and implemented sensible and workable conditions for agriculture workers crossing the NSW/Queensland border.
"We finally have a rational approach in place after weeks of the Queensland Government ignoring the very real problems their hard border caused," Mr Marshall said.
Seasonal Worker Program reopened
The federal government has also reopened the Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme, and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud urged the state governments to take advantage of the "sensible approach".
"With appropriate state and territory plans and quarantine arrangements in place, seasonal and Pacific workers can safely support farmers facing critical workforce shortages," Mr Littleproud said.
"This decision gives industry certainty so they can plan their workforce needs and know that harvesting our fruit and vegetables can be done at the right time so food doesn't go to waste."
More than 40 per cent of working holiday makers have left the country since the borders closed, with the horticulture industry estimating the decline at about 1000 people a week.
Ausveg chief executive James Whiteside said the announcements were positive steps by the government to address labour shortages, but there was still more work to be done.
"We have said that solutions to this issue will need a multi-pronged approach and this announcement is a great step forward, but there is still more to do," Mr Whiteside said.
"The government's announcements are a signal that it is willing to hear the concerns from industry and that it is willing to find solutions to potentially devastating problems.
"Growers are urged to use the National Harvest Labour Information Service to lodge their labour requirements to help manage their way through what is expected to be a turbulent time."