NSW Nationals Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders has backed calls from primary producers, farmworkers, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall 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.

Mr Saunders said with harvest season fast approaching, NSW farmers needed access to an all-important workforce.

“With many farmers in regional NSW preparing for the harvest season ahead, it’s important our farmers have the workforce they need to get the harvest done,” Mr Saunders said.

“Our farmers have battled through the worst drought on record, and now that things are looking positive thanks to the rain we’re confronted with a potential shortage of workers to help them get crops out of the ground.

“As a proud member of the NSW Nationals, I understand all too well the gravity of the situation at hand. National Cabinet needs to ensure agricultural workers can cross the border, albeit that needs to happen in a COVID-safe manner.”

Mr Barilaro said agriculture was an essential industry, with our farmers feeding and clothing the nation, and everything needed to be done to ensure they could 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,” Mr Barilaro said.

Mr Marshall proposed sensible safety requirements in exchange for the removal of all other restrictions on the movement of agricultural workers across 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.