The federal government has announced an Agriculture Visa in response to the workforce shortage Hunter industries are facing.

Across the country the agriculture sector alone is short tens of thousands of workers due to the COVID-induced border closures.

The Visa will be in place from late next, will run for three years and will be open to applicants from a range of countries the federal government says have been negotiated through bilateral agreements. It’s not yet known which countries this will include.

NSW Nationals Senator Perin Davey says the Visa will help solve one of the great challenges facing the Hunter in recent history.

“I have had a lot of representations from businesses in the Hunter, particularly in the wine and grape industries as well as the meat processors who have really felt the pinch with the loss of the backpacker workers and the tightening of restrictions of overseas workers coming into the country.

“This will be a game changer for out agriculture industries who have been crying out for something to be done to address the workforce shortages which have really come to a fore during COVID,” Ms Davey said. 

The federal government says the Visa will supplement the Pacific Island Scheme and the seasonal worker program which are already in place.

However, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy says the Visa will sideline workers from the Pacific and will offer less protections for workers.

“What we will see is some of the less scrupulous farmers choosing the Agriculture Visa so they can get away with exploiting the workers on that visa,” Mr Conroy said.