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3 March, 2022

Ag visa fails to attract new workers

The Australian Workers Union has claimed that the Ag Visa had failed to attract workers to farms.

By Emily Middleton

The Australian Agriculture Visa program has been introduced to address workforce shortages in the agriculture sector. It is a stream of the temporary work (international relations) subclass 403 visa.

The program delivers on the government’s commitment to put in place a broad ranging visa to support the growth of Australia’s agricultural industries, and is available to employees across a range of agricultural sectors and skill levels.

However, NSW Farmers believes that the workers union ignored the impact that COVID-19 has had on international travel. NSW Farmers vice-president Xavier Martin said Australians needed to work together to rebuild the economy and workforce out of COVID.

“Our food does not grow, pick and process itself — we have had two years of workforce shortages impacting food supply in this country,” said Mr Martin.

“We need to work together to find ways to get more farm workers, not fewer, because any action that impacts agricultural labour supply will ultimately cost us all by limiting the food we can produce.”

Many farm jobs are seasonal – some for only a few weeks at a time – and until COVID-19 brought an end to international travel many were filled by backpackers and short-term foreign workers. Mr Martin said NSW Farmers was actively advocating for more agricultural skills training for Australians, but a holistic approach was needed to ensure the sector could continue to grow and harvest our food.

“The Ag Visa is just one part of a broader strategy to resolve the workforce crisis facing the sector,” said Mr Martin.

“Attraction, training and retention of Australian workers is part of the solution, but so too is attraction of international workers because the reality is that there are seasonal jobs that Australians are just not attracted to do.

“I’m hopeful we’ll find proactive solutions to these challenges, and avoid politicisation of this important issue.”

As of December 2021, no one had taken up the visa.

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