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Victorian Government extends agricultural support programs

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The Victorian Government has announced the extension of key programs to support farm businesses and industry, including the Seasonal Harvest Sign-On Bonus and a quarantine pathway for Pacific workers. 

The Seasonal Harvest Sign-On Bonus was established to attract jobseekers for picking, packing and pruning work in harvest season. Workers receive $2,430 in total for 8 weeks’ work, and so far more than 1,800 workers have received $810 first instalment of the bonus after the ten-day period.  

A streamlined quarantine pathway for the valuable Pacific labour force is also set to continue after June 30. More than 840 Pacific workers arriving via Tasmanian quarantine pathway so far, with the next flight due in July 

Mick Crisera, Grower Services Manager at Fruit Growers Victoria, said the Victorian Government’s agricultural support programs had been welcomed by the industry, and the extension of these initiatives was a positive opportunity. 

“The Seasonal Harvest Sign-On Bonus is really simple for workers because they just need their payslip, so it’s been one of the more effective initiatives,” Mick said. 

“The Sign-On Bonus only began during the height of the pomefruit harvest period, so it was a bit late for many growers. This funding extension is good news, because it means that those growers can actually make use of it next harvest.” 

Mick also believes that the extension of the quarantine pathway program for Pacific labour is one of the most valuable short-term solutions. 

“This season could prove even more difficult for supply of harvest labour, because there’s so much uncertainty around borders and the movement of people,” Mick said. “Pacific labour is a really important solution in the short term, and we need to ramp it up.” 

A number of farming areas have also benefitted from the Seasonal Workforce Accommodation Program, which has allocated more than $3.1 million in project funding to provide accommodation, transport and support services for workers in key horticulture regions. 

“SWAP will be a great help for supporting the Pick Shep/Pick GV campaign,” Mick said. “A lot of people came to Shepparton from Melbourne on the train, so they had no transport of their own and needed accommodation. Creating COVIDsafe shared accommodation is difficult and costly, but we found it was easy to get pickers for anyone that had decent accommodation, so it needs to be a priority. Our Pick GV project will be even larger, so it would be great to have more funding support for that so growers can prepare.” 

With international travel restrictions expected to hamper movement of labour, it is vital that state and federal governments continue to support growers in not only solving the harvest problems of this year, but finding sustainable solutions for coming years. The extension of these successful programs hopefully reflects an ongoing commitment to supporting the agricultural industry. 

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