Backpacker tax
Backpacker tax

Farmers welcome seasonal worker visa extensions

FARMERS across the Far North have been given some much-needed security for their labour needs in the months ahead.

After weeks of uncertainty and lobbying from the horticultural industry, the Federal Government announced temporary changes to visa arrangements.

This will help farmers access the workforce they need to secure Australia's food and produce supply during COVID-19.

Howe Farming managing director Dennis Howe.
Howe Farming managing director Dennis Howe.

The changes allow those within the Pacific Labour Scheme, Seasonal Worker Program and working holiday makers (backpackers) to continue to work in agriculture and food processing until the coronavirus crisis has passed.

Running one of the biggest farming operations in the Far North region, Howe Farming managing director Dennis Howe said he was "extremely happy" with the government's decision to extend visas.

Mr Howe has 88 seasonal workers working across his farms.

"It was really the only option, as we need workers and the workers need to work," he said. "If this decision was not a favourable one, we would have lost all of our SWPs and numerous backpackers over the next six months.

"And the added problem is would they have a home to go to? Would they have been able to get home?"

FNQ Growers president Joe Moro also welcomed the temporary changes to visa arrangements.

"During peak harvest seasons in the region, seasonal workers and backpackers comprise some 20 per cent of the workforce, while working visa holders up to 50 per cent," he said. "As is expected, employers and employees will need to abide by some conditions moving forward, however, these measures are designed at managing our labour force and protecting our regional communities."

Originally published as Farmers welcome seasonal worker visa extensions



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