NSW Farmers is calling for an urgent agreement by all Agriculture Ministers to ensure a national agricultural worker movement code can be endorsed by the National Cabinet on Friday.
NSW Farmers CEO Pete Arkle says lifting border restrictions for agricultural workers and contractors is urgently required as a bumper grain harvest looms.
“’There was some good news for Victorian border communities today from the Premier with the expansion of the border bubble to 50 kilometres, but there is still no certainty for farmers and local food and fibre production,” Mr Arkle said.
“A national agriculture worker code needs to be resolved and consistently implemented by mid-September or the grain harvest will be in jeopardy.”
“We also have harvest season coming for some horticultural crops like cherries and stone fruit. The NSW cherry industry employs around 5000 people for harvest season alone.”
“There are also farmers who cannot cross the border to manage livestock on properties they own or manage in Victoria. There are also dairy farmers, livestock producers and fruit and vegetable growers that need access to specialist contractors and machinery from other states.”
“Agriculture is an essential industry that has no borders. The flow of labour and machinery and contractors is national, so a national agriculture worker code is the way forward.”
Mr Arkle said NSW Farmers’ members have already indicated their support for a range of requirements that will aid the safe movement of agricultural workers and suppliers, including adhering to a mandatory COVID Safe Plan, appropriate use of PPE, social distancing, committing to self-isolation when not working, and recording travel and local movements.
“Farmers know the critical importance of keeping safe and good health and hygiene regimes for themselves, their employees, their livestock and their suppliers.”
“Our farmers also feed the nation and we must do everything to ensure they can continue to operate as smoothly as possible.”