The NFF is crowing about the decision to defer pay increases for employees of farmers in EC-declared areas one day, then is saying there is a need for 50,000 extra workers in agriculture the next. Join the dots guys! Agriculture has to realise it is up against stiff competition, especially from the resources sector, and that massive improvements in employee conditions is neededed if a vast skill shortage is to be avoided.
Picture this scenario if a farmer exploits the Fair Pay Commission ruling and defers the pay increases. You are a young rural fella from an area that has done it tough through the drought and are looking for employment. You've done a bit of casual work around the place and are pretty handy on most of the big machinery.
Let's take a look at your options. You could stay local and take sporadic work where it comes up, with no guarantee of security for a cocky who is going to pay you under the award wage for everyone else in the country, or you could head for the mines, where your skills will be put to good use and you can earn yourself a regular pay packet your old man, who has worked in farmhand jobs all his life, would never have dreamed of. It's not really a tough decision, is it?
The NFF has completely missed the point on this. At the grassroots level, farmers have already acknowledged the dearth of farm labour and are ensuring job security for good workers, even though there may not strictly be 12 months' worth of work for their employee. They are flexible and offer good conditions, realising that they cannot compete on wage alone. It is this sort of approach that will keep young kids in their home district, ensuring the viable of rural communities in the long-term - not gloating over the fact they can legally stitch them up for a few dollars less each week.
We all know how hard the drought has been, and that people are feeling the pinch - but land owners aren't the only ones in rural communities doing it tough.
Rural workers are the first to feel it when work at the local bunker or putting in crop dries up - and it is no coincidence it is these blokes flocking to the mines in their droves, lured by the promise of a regular fat pay packet.
Farmers need to be creative and think outside the square to keep their workforce. Instead of indulging in the upstairs, downstairs attitude of the NFF, the vast majority of primary producers are instead working franticaly to ensure they retain good staff. And that ain't by paying under the odds and expecting workers to cop it on the chin.