The Agricultural Workers Permit will allow movement between borders

BUMPER HARVEST: Tichborne Farmers Neil Kingham and Mark Ranger viewing this years wheat crop, the best for years. Photo: Jenny Kingham.

BUMPER HARVEST: Tichborne Farmers Neil Kingham and Mark Ranger viewing this years wheat crop, the best for years. Photo: Jenny Kingham.

Many are saying this year's harvest will be the best seen in some time (pending a wet end to the season), and for farmers in the region it is crucial that contractors are able to travel in this COVID-19 restricted climate.

The NSW Government have introduced the Agricultural Worker Permit, which allows eligible workers to travel between NSW and Victoria while the Federal Government has agreed to the Agricultural Workers Code for cross border movement.

Stringent requirements still apply, and those who have been in a COVID-19 restricted area of concern within the fortnight are not eligible for the permit.

The head of each farm looking to utilise travelling contractors or seasonal workers is required to register a unique number for each worker.

Additionally, a specifc COVID-19 safety plan has to be implemented, with the plan available on the NSW Government website - with requirements including physical distancing, hygiene, record keeping and cleaning.

The NSW Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall spoke recently about the importance of ensuring farmers in western NSW had sufficient access to workers.

"Our farmers have just come out of the worst drought on record, and they are now poised to begin their recovery with the largest winter crop harvest since 2016.

"They need the workforce to take advantage of that," said Mr Marshall.

Tichbourne farmer Neil Kingham, who acknowledged a record harvest is predicted but is wary of a wet end to the season, also pointed to the other effects of COVID-19 on agriculture.

"Farmers are concerned that COVID-19 restrictions may slow processing times at grain receival centres, causing a backlog of grain on farm at a time when farmers are trying to harvest grain as quickly as possible.

"It may also affect overseas trade of our harvested grains through potential problems in the international delivery chain, as well as a changing customer demand in some of the more severely affected countries."

Agriculture is a critical component of Australia's economy, and ensuring there are sufficient workers and/or contractors in our region is a big step towards recovery following the prolonged drought and the COVID-19 pandemic.