Harvesters urged to have COVID movement plans in place

Harvesters urged to have COVID movement plans in place

Cropping
With harvest creeping up, Grain Producers Australia is urging growers and contractors to double check their plans regarding movement, especially over state borders.

With harvest creeping up, Grain Producers Australia is urging growers and contractors to double check their plans regarding movement, especially over state borders.

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Agricultural workers may be able to get cross border permits, but industry leaders warn farmers need to keep a close check for new rules.

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WITH COVID-19 state border restrictions still firmly in place and unlikely to ease any time soon, lobby group Grain Producers Australia is urging grain growers and harvest contractors to have a clear plan regarding logistics this harvest.

There are still permits available for those in the agricultural sector to cross borders closed to the general public, however there have been many reported incidents with border crossing systems and GPA is warning the industry to be well prepared to ensure the projected 50 million tonne plus crop comes off in a timely manner.

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"While there's a positive outlook with good prices, we can't take anything for granted," said outgoing GPA chairman Andrew Weidemann.

He said last year had provided a precedent for how the grains industry could manage COVID-19 risk, but said regulations would likely be even tighter in the wake of the Delta outbreak gripping the key grain producing states of NSW and Victoria.

"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," he said.

"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."

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

Mr Taylor said his advice was to avoid frustrations 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.

He said people moving states needed to avoid the trap of relying on social media for their advice.

"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."

NSW Farmers grains committee chair, Matthew Madden, said the industry had to prepare for rules governing core issues such as quarantine and vaccination requirements for travel permits to change, given the fluidity of the COVID situation.

"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.

"Information may be right one minute but outdated the next day, so be sure to keep your eye on the ball and assume nothing."

In the south, Victorian Farmers Federation grains group president Ash Fraser said with a combination of essential worker permits and cross-border bubbles, he was confident of the system working once again, but added all participants needed to remain on the ball.

"You need to pay a close ear to what is happening, any proposed changes and how they will impact you," Mr Fraser said.

He said while the industry was in a better position in some respects having negotiated restrictions last year in other ways it would be more difficult.

"There are a number of cases in western NSW, whereas last year there was nothing, it means people will have to be that bit more vigilant when they are visiting an area to take all the necessary precautions.

"We are lucky in that our work is very isolated so there should not be too much contact and we can all get the job done."

Farm bodies are working to ensure state governments are aware of the importance of the grains labour force being able to be mobile.

AgForce grains policy director, Cam Parker, said his organisation was working 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.

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