Rural labour shortage plan

Feeling the pinch: Dairy has been hit hard by labour shortages. Photo by Jeanette Servers

This is the final in a series looking at the key points of a federal election policy statement released by Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) in December.

ADF has developed a seven-point plan aimed at addressing the labour shortage in rural areas.

The recommendations form part of the organisation’s 30-page federal election policy statement released in December, in preparation for the next federal election.

The statement points out that for many years dairy has suffered from a worker shortage.

The group said age demographics, geographic location, industry culture, infrastructure, housing and attractiveness of other jobs and lifestyle in urban areas had contributed to the problem.

ADF would like to see a $300 million commitment to implement the National Agriculture Workforce Strategy.

Under the strategy, the ADF wants priority allocated to the following initiatives:

1. Establishment of a Workforce Data Unit to aggregate and predict workforce gaps and trends;

2. Establishment of an agriculture passport to capture and retain staff competencies and experience across the sector;

3. Ensuring the education sector partners more strongly with industry to create learning experiences that meet industry development needs;

4. Expanding the Skilling Australians Fund to benefit the whole agri-food workforce;

5. Improving administration of the visa system to recognise the critical skills shortage in dairying and be resourced to improve efficiencies and lower costs to farmers and rural communities;

6. Delivering an agriculture reputation and recognition campaign to promote best practice, create a positive culture and attract new workers to the industry; and

7. Establishment of a leading change fund to implement strategically aligned workforce leadership and career development programs.

The new agriculture visa was introduced by the Federal Government in August to resolve critical worker shortages.

The trial, from December 2021 to March 2022, was introduced with about 700 people from South-East Asia.

Labour hire companies are being used to work in partnership with peak bodies and farm businesses to ensure appropriate deployment of labour on-farm.

ADF believes it is critical that an evaluation of the pilot is led by the National Farmers’ Federation to finalise the structure and operation of the agriculture visa.