Murray River Group of Councils media release - Murray River Councils say farm visa vital for region

Published on 09 September 2019

MRGC is calling for the urgent introduction of a Farm Visa that will enable our seasonal workforce to return to pick and pack horticultural produce in the coming season and beyond.

Agriculture and food manufacturing are the backbone of our region’s economy. Northern Victoria grows more than half of Victoria’s horticultural produce. This production is dependent on access to a reliable seasonal workforce.

Without a Farm Visa or a pathway for currently undocumented workers, it is becoming increasingly likely that there will be little or no workforce available to pick fruit next season. This will devastate growers in our region already doing it tough with dry conditions and high water prices.

Cr Lorraine Learmonth, Chair of the Murray River Group said today: “Without a workforce, the fruit will just rot on the ground. This would just be catastrophic for our growers. It would cripple them financially. Some of them wouldn’t be able to stay in business.

“Our region is already suffering with farmers leaving dairy in big numbers. This would just be disastrous for our economy and our communities.

“We are calling on the Federal Government to find a way to enable our workforce to continue to pick this season.

 “We are very concerned about the exploitation of migrant workers and call on State and Federal Governments, industry, unions and retailers to work together to eradicate these practices.

“I have written to the Victorian Industrial Relations Minister Tim Pallas seeking his support for a 12 month transitional period for the enforcement of the Labour Hire Licencing scheme to focus on information and education to work to bring best practice into the industry without decimating the essential workforce.

“Ultimately we need a nationally consistent licensing scheme, transparent supply chains and for the big supermarkets to prioritise ethical purchasing over constant price reduction” said Cr Learmonth.

The Murray River Group of Councils comprises six councils in northern Victoria, Mildura and Swan Hill Rural City Councils and Loddon, Gannawarra, Campaspe and Moira Shires.