ASIDE from sporadic, commodity-specific publications and generic Australian Bureau of Statistics reports, we are relatively unaware of who is working where and why in agriculture.
They are the ageing, faceless men and women of the industry: people we know so much, yet so little about.
The National Farmers Federation (NFF) tells us employment is dropping at an alarming rate – 27 per cent during the past 10 years – before launching a series of painfully specific questions heralded as the Farm Sector Employer Survey.
Surveys are tough to get right. Perhaps the NFF and similar bodies would be better served helping create employment hubs for out-of-work farmers, and a farm workers union might be a consideration.
The gradual corporatisation of farming has improved workplace relations, but agriculture is still, in places, a transitory industry, characterised by seasonal semi-skilled workers, which means, dare I say it, an injection of human resources may be required.
A Gardiner Foundation report, Retention of People in Dairyfarming and why used HR-esque focus groups to tease information out of farmers that lost staff, rather than asking them to air their grievances through a virtual medium.
Another constructed issue with farm employment is the Department of Immigration's passing of the Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas), which made it more expensive for migrants to apply for 457 visas (skilled workers) and according to the NFF, was supposed to reduce the amount of workers available during fruit picking and harvesting seasons.
However, 416 visas (special seasonal worker program or holiday workers) have helped fill the picking shortfall across Australia and Victoria because 457 visas relate only to skilled workers, something fruit pickers are not classified as.
In fact, Department of Immigration figures show while the number of Australia-wide applications for 457 visas in the sector decreased by 57.9pc between the September and December quarters last year, Victoria's granted applications increased by almost 20pc.