Peak representative body for Queensland horticulture, Growcom has today welcomed Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, David Coleman’s announcement of the addition of skilled agricultural occupations to the Regional Occupation List.

Under the modified scheme, skilled migrants will now be able to access four-year working visas provided they remain in a specified region and take up agricultural roles.

The changes accompany recent amendments made by the Morrison Government to the Working Holiday Maker visa program and the Seasonal Worker Program, in an effort to address workforce shortages.

Growcom CEO, David Thomson said Growcom applauds the government for listening to the needs of industry which has been calling for better access to workers for some time now.

“Accessing the right labour at the right time is an ongoing issue for many horticultural growers,” Mr Thomson said.

“Growcom welcomes the acknowledgement of the labour challenges facing the industry and is pleased to see government taking steps to address the issue.

“While these changes acknowledge the difficulty farmers face in filling regional jobs, they don’t however address industry’s need for casual, low-skilled workers at peak seasonal times.”

Growcom continues to call for the introduction of an Agricultural Visa to match international workers with low skilled jobs farmers need filled.

“We want to see Australians filling Australian farm jobs. However, lots of farm work is labour intensive, not available year-round and has proven difficult to fill with Australian job seekers,” Mr Thomson said.

“We again call upon the Federal Government to fast track the development of an Agricultural Visa with in-built compliance requirements to ensure overseas workers entering Australia are doing so via legal means and in accordance with visa conditions.

“The current backpacker and working holiday maker visas alone are inadequate and are at risk of being abused by unethical employers and labour hire contractors looking to fill the workforce.

“A dedicated Agricultural Visa would be a step towards solving the labour crisis plaguing our industry and building a capable and reliable workforce for horticulture.

“There is nothing more we and our growers want than to have a reliable workforce made up of both domestic and international employees, and for that workforce to be ethically and fairly employed.”