Ag movement code on the way

National Cabinet adopts binding, enforceable, evidence-based agriculture code

Coronavirus
HUGE WIN: Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke says the adoption of the code is a huge win for farming groups and their constituents.

HUGE WIN: Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke says the adoption of the code is a huge win for farming groups and their constituents.

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Most jurisdictions sign up for national worker code.

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National Cabinet has adopted a binding,enforceable, evidence-based National Agricultural Workers Code.

Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke said the adoption of the code was a huge win for farming groups and their constituents, who had been fighting for freight-type exemptions for agricultural workers.

"The decision to unlock critical agriculture in Victoria and our border zones I'm sure comes as a huge relief for many farmers," Mr Jochinke said.

"I've been talking to farmers and industry around the clock lately about the incredibly distressing decisions they've been forced make.

"We've had farmers who couldn't access their properties interstate to do basic jobs such as check water, wean calves and mark lambs."

Five out of eight states and territories backed the code, with Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania failing to agree.

Read more:

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Mr Jochinke said the sector had experienced enormous interruption and uncertainty in recent times, which was completely unsustainable.

He said the VFF looked forward to the release of the Code details and its rapid implementation by Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales.

"Let's hope this announcement is one of many steps forward towards working as single, cohesive nation," he said.

"Our farmers farm for Australia and we need to ensure we remove the barriers preventing them from doing their jobs.

"We need to be freeing up the agricultural workforce as soon as possible to let our farmers get back to doing what they do best, producing food and fibre."

Mr Jochinke said agriculture could help the nation of out the current recession and common-sense decisions to keep farmers farming would not only help feed the nation, but would also allow Victoria to continue to export world-class food and fibre internationally.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, said the majority of Australia's farmers, agricultural workers and regional communities would be feeling reassured and relieved by the outcome.

"Queensland has already got a process in place for farmers and agricultural workers from NSW until 22 September so it's important they now provide certainty and clarity about that future arrangement," Mr Littleproud said.

"In the vast majority of cases, the closed borders are merely preventing farmers and workers from effectively COVID-free areas to conduct work in other COVID-free areas across state border lines.

"With a bumper crop expected due to improved seasonal conditions, today's decision could not have come at a better time for farmers and agribusinesses in NSW, Victoria, SA, NT and the ACT."

Those states that have agreed will implement the new code over the next fortnight.

And the Victorian government has backed the prescriptive code.

Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes welcomed the news that NSW, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory would join Victoria in allowing the unimpeded movement of farmers and agriculture workers across borders.

"We support a strong code that provides certainty and consistency for the movement of agriculture workers across state borders," Ms Symes said.

"This code is critical to letting our agriculture workers continue to provide food security to our state, and the rest of the country.

"I know this has been stressful for many in the sector as they make their plans for upcoming harvests and livestock management.

"I thank those who got in touch with me explaining how these restrictions would impact them - we couldn't have achieved this result without your voices."

The code aims to support consistency in border controls for agricultural workers across the states and territories who have agreed to it, including the definition of an agricultural worker and requirements around COVID safety plans, personal protective equipment, record keeping and testing.

The code aimed to balance the needs of agricultural industries and the safety of the broader community, ensuring food and supply chain security, as well as protecting animal welfare and maintaining Australia's biosecurity preparedness.

The Victorian Government will await the final details of the code and will work with neighbouring states on implementation.

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