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Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has welcomed the introduction of the Australian Agriculture Visa to help address workforce shortages and ensure local goods make it to market.

Mr Chester said the visa was important for security of supply and agricultural production in Gippsland after workforce disruptions due to coronavirus restrictions.

“Gippsland producers have experienced workforce shortages and it has led to uncertainty around crop harvesting across the region,” Mr Chester said.

“Improved access to a seasonal workforce will give local farmers the confidence to plant their crops, and invest in the future of their businesses.”

Mr Chester said the new visa would build on the highly successful Pacific labour schemes and be available to workers across the region including horticulture, fishing, forestry and meat processing.

“The new visa will be targeted at areas where it has proven impossible to secure a local workforce through regional Australia to undertake the work required,” Mr Chester said.

“To ensure we can get workers on the ground quickly, consultations will begin immediately to understand the needs of the agriculture sector and to ensure a high degree of integrity and safeguards for workers.

“The visa will be open to applicants from a range of countries which will be negotiated as part of bilateral agreements.”

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said the agriculture workforce shortage has been a major issue during COVID.

“While our farmers and industries have gone about their work keeping Australians and the world fed and clothed, they have done so under workforce constraints,” Mr Littleproud said.

“With the changes to the Working Holiday Maker program following the UKFTA, the government knew this was the time to put the agriculture visa in place.

“This is a structural change to the agricultural workforce. It gives our farmers a confidence to know they can go and plant a crop and know they’ll be able to get it off.”

The Australian Agriculture Visa will be in place by the end of September 2021, with full implementation over the next three years.

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