Survey shows farmers will walk away if PALM worker access is further eroded

Beef Central, 18/04/2024

Farmers are warning they will change what they grow or even walk away from farming if their access to overseas workers is reduced, new survey data from the National Farmers Federation shows.

A survey of farmers from nearly every commodity across the country comes as visa fee rises and changes to the UK backpacker rules loom over the industry and latest data shows farmers are abandoning the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) Scheme.

National Farmers Federation President David Jochinke said the Federal Government’s panacea to agriculture’s workforce woes, the PALM Scheme, appeared to be faltering, with Department of Employment and Work Relations data showing an 11 percent fall in the number of PALM workers employed in agriculture in the six months to January.

“With the Government piling on red tape to access the PALM Scheme, farmers are turning to other sources for workers, making backpackers an even more critical part of the agricultural workforce than ever before,” Mr Jochinke said.

The survey showed a third of the farm workforce was backpackers during busy harvest periods.

“From July 1 British backpackers will no longer be required to work in regional areas and adding more salt to the wound is visa fees will jump 25 per cent, making Australia one of the most expensive countries in the world for backpackers to visit,” he said.

“It is clear any further eroding the 88-day requirement for backpackers to work on farms will have major ramifications for producers, with 35pc of farmers saying it would have a ‘catastrophic’ impact.

Alarmingly, farmers are warning if access to backpackers is eroded further it will mean increases in food prices, a fatiguing workforce and, in the worst case, farmers walking away from the industry. More than half of farmers surveyed said they would consider switching commodities or leaving the industry altogether if access to workers was reduced.

“What it boils down to is less workers means less food and fibre and that pushes up the price for all Australians at the supermarket checkout. We need the Government to stop debilitating farmers’ access to overseas workers,” Mr Jochinke said.

“If they’re not prepared to get serious about finding alternative pathways, they need to reinforce existing measures, rather than eroding and dismantling them.”

What the NFF survey found

Approximately what percentage of your workforce are backpackers?

  • Average response: 33.37pc
  • Median response: 25pc

What impact will the phase-out of UK backpackers have on your business (0-10 scale)?

  • Catastrophic (8-10): 40pc
  • Significant (5-7): 32pc
  • Minor (1-4): 16pc
  • Nil (0): 12pc.

What impact would removal of the ‘88 day’ work incentive have on your business (0-10 scale)?

  • Catastrophic (8-10): 63pc
  • Significant (5-7): 20pc
  • Minor (1-4): 9pc
  • Nil (0): 9pc

Would you consider changing commodities or leaving the industry if access to workers was reduced?

  • Yes: 54pc
  • No: 46pc.


Source: NFF





Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


  1. Andrew Wilson, 19/04/2024

    The failure of Neo liberal economics

  2. One thing not considered when removing the 88-day requirement for English backpackers is the WHS implications of employing people whose first language is not English. Providing written and verbal instructions becomes much more difficult (especially in noisy environments) and the need to assess understanding becomes more time consuming.

Get Beef Central's news headlines emailed to you -