A TOOWOOMBA Migration Agent believes government bureaucracy is hindering visa applications for migrants looking for work in the agricultural industry.
Mick Keegan of Auslink Regional Migration said since reforms were brought in back in July, he had seen many employer-sponsored visa applications rejected, all of which were for the agricultural sector.
Mr Keegan said it was ludicrous to bring in more hurdles for applicants when farmers were crying out for help.
It doesn't matter what sort of farming. Everybody's looking for workers because there's such a shortage here.
"We have skilled migrant workers who are willing and able to work, and we have farmers who are having their production capability severely incapacitated due to lack of help," he said.
"We are crippling these farmers, who are crying out for help on their farms, through government bungling."
Of particular concern to Mr Keegan were migrant workers, with not only agricultural experience but also formal qualifications, being refused due to not meeting the new legislation.
"There are now no exemptions," he said.
"The ag sector has the highest average age in the workforce than any of the industries and in the next five years many have to retire. So who's going to fill the skills and knowledge gaps?
"What the farmers have to rely on is backpackers and that's what is keeping it going."
Linda Horton has seen first-hand how big the need for skilled workers is.
Along with her husband Evan, Mrs Horton began online agricultural connection agency Farm Worker earlier this year.
The Oakey grain farmers also hire international workers themselves.
"It doesn't matter what sort of farming. Everybody's looking for workers because there's such a shortage here," Mrs Horton said.
In the four months since the agency was created, Mrs Horton said the interest from employees and employers had been huge, and they were now placing workers all over Australia.
Employing four Irish workers this harvest season themselves, Mrs Horton said workers they placed were predominantly from the United Kingdom and Europe.
"With the global crisis overseas, it's especially encouraging for the young ones to come and work," she said.
"Primarily a lot of the fellows have a trade. It's not as if they're unskilled coming out here.
"We find getting to know them really interesting. They virtually become part of a big family and often the friendship continues for years down the track, too."
Mr Keegan is hoping there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.
"We are leaving the final say on these issues to people who have never even visited a farm and have too much opportunity to misinterpret the position definitions. The rejections seemed to be based on a differing interpretation of the agricultural technician definition," he said.
"This is at a time when we should be supporting farmers, not crippling them."
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