OPINION

Visas, coronavirus and funding on the radar in uncertain times

Needed: More skilled agricultural workers will be heading our way. Image: Shutterstock
Needed: More skilled agricultural workers will be heading our way. Image: Shutterstock

We are fortunate the New England area has been relatively free of the coronavirus and all of us are looking forward to seeing the lockdown restrictions lifted.

However, the timing may be impacted by difficulties controlling the virus elsewhere.

The Australian Government is continuing to play its part through supplying vaccines, and we look forward to reaching the vaccination targets of 70 per cent and 80 per cent to enable more freedoms throughout our community.

To help address the shortage of agricultural workers, the Nationals have delivered an important Agriculture Visa to support vital industries across Rural and Regional Australia.

The new 'Agricultural Worker Visa' will come into affect by the end of this month and will be open to applicants from a range of selected countries.

It will open the door to skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers in areas such as meat processing, fisheries, and forestry.

It was great to announce $3.19 million in funding for three New England aged care facilities.

The lion's share of $2.5 million will go to Haddington Nursing Home in Tenterfield. CEO, Fiona Murphy said the funds will provide a much-needed extension for 46 residents, especially catering for those living with dementia.

Quirindi's Eloura Nursing Home will receive over $577,000 while Barraba's Richardson House has been allocated $120,000.

As we head into Spring, mouse numbers could again be on the rise, and I urge all farmers to continue monitoring crops and property for any sign of mouse infestation.

If mice do affect your property you can find out what assistance is available by heading to www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/mouse-infestation and following the links.

As a result of the storms and flooding in Northern New South Wales during July, disaster assistance is now available within selected LGAs to help individuals, primary producers, small businesses and charities get back on track.

Whether it's to help with repairing homes, cleaning costs, or restoring damaged assets, check how the Government may be able to assist, by visiting www.disasterassist.gov.au.

Similarly, the Coalition has made $34.2 million available for projects aimed at managing and preparing for the impact of drought, thanks to the $5 billion Future Drought Fund (FDF).

Ideas grants and proof-of-concept grants are for good ideas that need further development, while innovation grants are for mature ideas.

For more information and to apply, visit: www.communitygrants.gov.au. Applications close this Wednesday, 8 September at 9pm.

Barnaby Joyce is the Member for New England and Deputy Prime Minister