Steph Cooke leans on a gate in front of a canola field.
Steph Cooke near Junee.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke today called for the removal of restrictions on agricultural workers crossing the NSW/Victoria border.

The call comes ahead of a meeting of National Cabinet on Friday, where an Agricultural Workers Code will be presented and considered.

Ms Cooke said with harvest season fast approaching, NSW farmers needed access to an adequate workforce.

“Many farmers across the Cootamundra electorate are preparing for what is likely to be their best crops in several years and it’s vital our farmers have the workforce they need to get this harvest in,” Ms Cooke said.

“Agriculture is a vital part of all our communities. I understand all too well the gravity of the situation at hand, and call on National Cabinet to make this happen as soon as possible.

Deputy Premier and Leader of the NSW Nationals John Barilaro said agriculture is an essential industry and our farmers feed and clothe the nation and we must do everything to ensure they can continue to operate as smoothly as possible.

“NSW is an agriculture production powerhouse and this needs to continue, to help the economy recover after COVID-19, and bring many communities and farmers back from the brink after years of drought.”

NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said he would be taking forward a proposal to a meeting of agriculture ministers tomorrow, which would see sensible safety requirements imposed in exchange for the removal of all other restrictions on the movement of agricultural workers across all borders.

“Our farmers are suffering because the current cumbersome permit system restricts the free movement of agricultural workers across the NSW/Victoria border, beyond 100 kilometres,” Mr Marshall said.

“That’s why tomorrow I will be taking a proposal to a meeting of Agriculture Ministers which will would see border restrictions on farmers removed in exchange for sensible safety requirements.

The Minister for Agriculture is proposing an Agricultural Workers Code that would allow for the free movement of agriculture so long as COVID-19 safe strategies are in place including individual record keeping, COVID-safe plans, the use of PPE and regular voluntary testing.

The Code will be considered by agriculture ministers on Tuesday and by National Cabinet on Friday.