HARD AT WORK: Backpacker workers Yi-Fang Dai and Yiwen Kuo pick coriander at the Bare Essentials farm in Morton Vale.
HARD AT WORK: Backpacker workers Yi-Fang Dai and Yiwen Kuo pick coriander at the Bare Essentials farm in Morton Vale. Contributed

Farm worker changes welcomed by producers

CHANGES to two visa programs will allow farmers to build a more consistent workforce and make it easier for them to fill holes during peak periods.

The Federal Government has announced a rework to the Working Holiday Maker visa and the Seasonal Worker Program.

Those on a WHM visa will be able to work with the same agricultural employer for 12 months instead of just six, the number of places available in the program have been increased and a third-year visa option has been introduced.

The changes to the Seasonal Worker Program will allow workers to stay in Australia for nine months instead of six and reduce the out-of-pocket expenses for employers bringing them to the country.

Morton Vale farm Bare Essentials, which specialises in leafy bunching greens and herbs, employed a total of 70 staff this year.

Its workforce has been made up of 28 Australians, two Seasonal Worker Program participants, seven workers on student visas and 33 backpackers.

Co-founder Janne Dipple said finding the right mix of workers on a farm was akin to completing a jigsaw puzzle.

"Our agricultural industry needs multiple options to source employees. There is no perfect one kind of jobseeker that suits every farm job,” Mrs Dipple said.

"The secret is choosing the best type of job seeker or employment program for your specific job.

"Backpackers and the Seasonal Worker Program are an important part of that need as they can fill in around our Australian employees.”

"Solutions in our industry have been a long time coming as by nature, the industry is complex, and I believe these changes are positive for our region.”

Although she believed there was no "easy, singular, quick fix” to keeping on-farm employment demands in check, she welcomed the recent reworks to the two programs.

"The extension in time from six to 12 months (for the WHM program) will contribute to a more consistent workforce and allow the industry to help those people who wish to work on our farms,” she said.

"These people are most often our best temporary employees as it can take a backpacker quite a bit of time to learn farm work.

"Even if the work is unskilled, there is still an element of personal and physical capabilities needed.”

Bare Essentials has been a registered employer with the SWP since 2016, which has allowed the farm to bring in the right fit for short-term jobs that require skill and training.

"The changes to the SWP are positive, especially the reduction in the out-of- pocket expenses,” she said.

"The SWP is a time-consuming and expensive way to employ, so you really need to make sure you are employing them into jobs that suit them, their skills and the quality of their life outside of work.”


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