The pilot would provide a pathway for approved workers waiting in Pacific nations, who have been deemed eligible to make the trip but who do not yet have a pathway to farm.
“We recognise the Federal Government’s efforts in keeping the Seasonal Worker Program and the Pacific Labour Mobility Program operational during the COVID-19 pandemic,” NFF CEO Tony Mahar said.
“However, the limited number of placements and the significant cost of quarantine have proved barriers to the many, many international workers sitting, ready and waiting to start work on Australian farms.
“The cost impost to farmers has also made these programs out of reach to many farm businesses, even despite generous subsidies from some state governments.”
Conservative estimates indicate the national horticultural sector alone will be short about 16,000 workers this year. The industry has now reached the point where growers are unable to harvest their crops and risk losing millions of dollars’ worth of production.
Mr Mahar said quarantine challenges also threatened to compromise the effectiveness of the new Ag Visa.
The NFF’s proposed pilot would be modelled on the arrangements established in Queensland for the Seasonal Worker Program Restart and consistent with public announcements about the ‘at-home’ quarantine pilot and the opening of international borders, as announced on Friday.
“The number one priority for farmers is keeping their families, their workers and communities safe from COVID-19,” Mr Mahar said.
“The Pilot would therefore apply the appropriate safeguards to limit risk, including an assessment of COVID-19 epidemiology of the nations from which the workers come, vaccine status and a robust testing regime. It should also be noted that many Pacific nations have never had community transmission of COVID-19 and most approved workers have received two doses of a TGA-approved vaccine.”