COVID border restrictions challenge harvest movements

Grain Central, September 2, 2021

WITH COVID-19 restrictions limiting travel and movement across state borders, farmer representative organisations are urging grain growing businesses, harvest contractors and other critical farm workers to ensure they’re well-planned, well-prepared and factually informed this harvest.

Grain Producers Australia (GPA) chair and Victorian grain producer, Andrew Weidemann, said the movement of essential workers and equipment such as harvesters across different State jurisdictions was critical to the success of this year’s harvest and to optimise its forecast $15 billion value.

“We are expecting another huge crop with some forecasters projecting more than 50 million tonnes for the second consecutive year which will help many farmers and rural communities with their ongoing social and economic recovery from drought,” he said.

“While there’s a positive outlook with good prices, we can’t take anything for granted.

“This is also the second year of COVID restrictions which means we face serious challenges again in being able to move about, from state to state or farm to farm, in order to deliver this crop.

“That’s why we all need to remain calm and patient and take the emotion out of it; especially with understanding the people guarding our borders are also under extreme pressure in trying to do the best job they possibly can.

“We need to respect and acknowledge the vitally important role these people play in saving lives, and serving the community, by ensuring everyone follows the rules and health guidelines.”

On the move

AgForce Grains president and Warra grain producer, Brendan Taylor, said with harvest due to start in the next week or two in Queensland, harvest contractors and workers were on the move already.

Mr Taylor said to avoid frustrations, it’s best to plan any travel movements well in advance and check the necessary rules and requirements such as paperwork, against verified sources; especially relevant government websites.

“Social media can be a good source of information but it has a bad reputation when it comes to the facts,” he said.

“If you read or hear something, verify the truth of what’s being said before acting on it; especially if it’s going to impact your health and community safety, or the productivity of your business.”

Rules to change

NSW Farmers Grains Committee chair, Matthew Madden, said rules governing core issues such as quarantine and vaccination requirements for travel permits are also likely to change, given the fluidity of the COVID situation, and the obligations will also vary from State-to-State.

“If this global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s about preparing for the worse, hoping for the best and expecting the unexpected,” he said.

“We all need to be well-planned and well-informed, but we also need to be prepared to adjust and adapt, if and when needed.

“Information may be right one minute but outdated the next day, so be sure to keep your eye on the ball and assume nothing. Stay vigilant, prepare thoroughly and contingency plans are also critical.”

The permit application processes used by government departments must also be simple and user-friendly for farmers and farm businesses.

Working cooperatively

AgForce Grains policy director, Cam Parker, said his state farming organisation is working cooperatively with Queensland Government authorities to articulate the importance of borders remaining open, to ensure harvest can proceed this year.

Mr Parker said this coordinated effort included ongoing conversations to share knowledge and build greater understanding and appreciation of the different roles played by essential workers and why they needed to travel during harvest.

“A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes, and will continue, between government agencies and State Farming Organisations, to understand the issues and provide workable solutions, to ensure we can keep borders open to help deliver this harvest,” he said.

Mr Weidemann said GPA was also urging State and Federal Governments to continue working cooperatively to manage issues and provide access to essential workers, such as header drivers.

He said other mutually beneficial initiatives such as Operation Grain Harvest Assist are also advancing positively, with retired and former ADF servicemen and women answering the call-up to work on grain farms stationed throughout Australia this harvest.

Sources: GPA, AgForce, NSW Farmers





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