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Agriculture and migration

Overseas workers are used by nearly every single industry in Australia. From manufacturing to mining, Australian businesses employ migrants to supplement their labour force where necessary.

One of Australia’s largest and most historic industries is agriculture. According to the National Farmers Federation, there are over 135,000 farms in Australia today. These farms and associated sectors contribute to 12% of Australia’s GDP.

Overseas workers play a small but important part in the agricultural industry. By way of example, over 450 skilled overseas workers in the agricultural, forestry and fishing industry, such as farm managers, entered Australia in 2010-11 through the temporary 457 visa program. In the last three years, 300 skilled farmers or managers have arrived as permanent residents through the Regional Skilled Migration Scheme (RSMS). These skilled workers come from very different locations, from South Africa, to the Philippines and India.

But skilled workers are just one aspect of the role migration plays in the agricultural industry. Thousands of backpackers who arrive as working holiday makers travel around Australia, following the harvest trail or other seasonal work. The working holiday maker program assists industries like agriculture by allowing a second visa to be granted if the person worked in specific work in regional Australia.

An initiative introduced in 2008, the Pacific Seasonal Worker Pilot Scheme, provides overseas workers from the Pacific to work in the horticultural industry. These workers undertake a range of work such as harvesting fruit, vegetables and nuts, pruning trees and vines, thinning, planting, and working in on-farm packing sheds.

While migration programs are designed to be secondary sources of labour, with employers looking to Australian workers first, gaps can be filled by overseas workers.

If you would like to participate in a discussion about skilled migration and agriculture, AgChatOz will be hosting a conversation on Twitter, this Tuesday the 2nd of August, between 8pm and 10pm (Australian Eastern Standard Time). Check the AgChatOz site later on for a list of questions that will be discussed.

Below you can see the list of questions that will be discussed, just follow the hash tag #agchatoz between the hours above and contribute along if you feel like it!