Border closures spark fear in southwest farmers as agriculture industry struggles
BALONNE Shire Mayor Samantha O’Toole said she and several local farmers are concerned for the agricultural industry as ‘specialised’ people are unable to enter Queensland with the state’s current New South Wales border restrictions in full effect.
Currently, the only people allowed to enter Queensland by road are transport freight workers, truck drivers, people performing essential activities, and border zone residents.
Mayor O’Toole said she is working hard to rectify this issue.
“Council have been in touch with AgForce and the Department of Ag and Fisheries (DAF), and we’re also working with the state body trying to get exemptions rectified to include specialised people in the agricultural industry to be able to enter the state,” the mayor said.
“If we can’t get contractors, agronomists, chemical providers, shearers into Queensland, it will jeopardise our harvests.
“If agronomists can’t physically come check the crops or contractors are unable to do work – imagine the stress these farmers are feeling, already dealing with tricky situations during COVID-19, this just adds to the complexity.”
The mayor said she can’t understand why the agricultural industry isn’t being considered an ‘essential service’.
“I’ve had several emails from farmers raising their concerns,” she said.
“We’re aware a number of people in the community have applied for ‘exemption passes’ for specialised agricultural work.
“If these people don’t get approved, there will be a huge problem in the agricultural industry,” she said.
“We’re weeks away from wheat and winter harvests and a lot of farmers are concerned they will have crops laying in the field and the work won’t get done.”
She questions the state government’s ‘logic’ when enforcing border restrictions.
“Last time, contractors were able to get a letter from their employer and the exemption pass was quite easy to acquire,” she said.
“This time they have made these quick changes then decided to figure out the finer details – there’s no logic.
“That in turn will have a massive impact on our district, especially after seven years of severe drought.
“We need to be aware of the livelihoods and mental wellbeing of our farmers – the harvest should be a positive step to look forward to, it will be the best harvest in years and people need to be looking forward to this but now they’re wondering whether they will be able to get their crops from the field to the trucks.
“They’re jeopardising areas that have been COVID free the entire time.”