A new battleground has emerged for the Australian Defence Force as former servicemen and women are being enlisted to help harvest bumper crops across the country.
Under Operation Grain Harvest Assist, former ADF personnel will be connected to farmers, contract harvesters and grain supply chain businesses to meet the pressing national need to harvest winter grain crops.
As international border restrictions continue to limit the availability of overseas workers, who prior to the pandemic made up nearly half of Australia's seasonal workforce, it is clear more domestic workers will be needed on farms over coming months.
A stronger contingent of local workers and clear and consistent rules for those crossing state borders to access work will help stem the labour shortage, which is expected to reach around 1,000 workers in the NSW grains sector alone.
Experience operating complex machinery will make retired and former ADF servicemen and women ideal candidates for grain harvest jobs.
Header and chaser bin drivers, mechanics and farm hands are all needed to ensure a timely and successful harvest and to replicate the joy of last year's bumper crop following years of drought.
Run by former-ADF volunteers in collaboration with Grain Producers Australia and state farming organisations including NSW Farmers, the initiative will mobilise former servicemen and women via Defence information sites, Corp and Regimental Associations and their newsletters, emails and phone calls and connect them with farmers via a dedicated Facebook page.
The opening of the ADF program on Monday, 6 September comes days after NSW Farmers' release of our 10-point plan aimed at getting more workers to grains and horticulture enterprises ahead of harvests.
The current COVID-19 outbreak in NSW is making workplace, travel and accommodation requirements more stringent, and industry and government must work together quickly to find appropriate solutions.
Interested farmers can register their labour needs with Operation Grain Harvest Assist via https://www.facebook.com/groups/1741781399347127
- Matthew Madden, NSW Farmers Grains Committee chair
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