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Crunch Is Coming For Agricultural Contractors

Federated Farmers’ concerns about the serious shortage of experienced agricultural machinery operators is proving justified as summer approaches.

A shortage of experienced operators is being felt across rural New Zealand, and the pressure is building on both farmers and rural contractors, Feds immigration and employment spokesperson Chris Lewis says.

"Unfortunately, we all saw this coming a long way out. Federated Farmers has repeatedly explained the implications of having no international seasonal rural workers to the Immigration, Primary Industries and Workplace Relations and Safety Ministers, the Primary Production Select Committee and the CEO of WorkSafe.

"The shortage is leaving both contractors and farmers in the lurch and we have serious concerns for the coming season. These are complex machines that require experienced operators," Chris says.

Rural contractors deal with a workload that is both seasonal and weather reliant. An experienced team of operators is needed to ensure that arable and forage crops can be planted and harvested at the required times.

"Without enough operators the industry is facing a loss of production and contractors are facing health and safety risks, both through long hours worked by the staff available and being forced to put inexperienced operators in charge of machinery."

Stress also comes on for farmers who are relying on contractors to prepare supplementary animal feed for when grass is short, Chris said.

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"Rural contracting companies have done all they can to attract and train new staff, but a willing young Kiwi can’t match the experience of those workers who have come straight from driving the same machines in the Northern Hemisphere."

Feds is urging farmers and contractors to sit down and work together to plan how to work with the limited labour and time available.

"This is not going to be an ordinary season on the farm," Chris said.

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