DRIVING FORCE: Backpackers make up a large part of the blueberry labour force here on the Coffs Coast.
DRIVING FORCE: Backpackers make up a large part of the blueberry labour force here on the Coffs Coast. Trevor Veale

Lower backpacker tax vital, say farmers

NSW Farmers Federation expressed its disappointment that this week's Federal Budget announcement did not address the issue of the backpacker tax.

Negotiations between farmers, the Federal Government and the federation resulted in an alternative tax rate of 19% for backpackers taken from the first dollar earned instead of the proposed initial rate of 32.5%.

Federation president Derek Schoen met with Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce this week to reinforce concerns held by farmers and rural communities about the impact of the tax on labour resources and regional economies.

"The Deputy Prime Minister was well aware and sympathetic of the problems associated with the changes and I again stressed our position and efforts we will take in the lead up to the election," Mr Schoen said.

"The government's approach to ignore the sensible solutions put forward by the affected industries is baffling.

"This issue will not end here, we will continue our representation to parliament members looking for a fix leading up to the Federal Election."

The federation says growth and investment in the industry have been held back due to the tax, which has created uncertainties about sufficient labour to harvest and plant crops.

Growers, including Oz-Group Co-op chairman Gurmesh Singh in Woolgoolga, have previously expressed concerns that the increased backpacker tax will curtail their harvesting capacity and accelerate production costs.

According to the federation, around 38,000 backpackers work in agriculture each year. That's 25% of the total labour force in the industry.

Mr Schoen said that softening the planned tax rate from 32.5% to 19% would put an estimated $315.7 million directly into government coffers, while generating hundreds of millions more through the ongoing success of farming operations, tourism and regional spending.



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