David Littleproud said the industry needed the long-awaited new category as soon as possible to bring harvest and other workers from overseas.
“We’re close and very imminent to the announcement of a start date,” he told the ABC on Wednesday.
“Then we’ll be working with the states who hold the health approvals for the quarantining of these workers and also those that can come in already from the Pacific.”
Littleproud, who is deputy Nationals leader, said he hoped to give industry more confidence about labour supply in coming weeks.
Former deputy prime minister Michael McCormack promised to deliver an agriculture visa within three months of it being announced in June.
The new category has been the subject of wrangling within the coalition for years.
Liberals relented after Australia agreed to scrap the requirement for British backpackers to do an 88-day work stint in regional areas to extend working holidays.
Peak vegetable and potato industry body AUSVEG warns the sector faces a labour shortage of up to 24,000 workers in upcoming peak harvest seasons.
The lobby group is urging the federal government to increase quarantine capacity to allow more workers in.
“We are still well short of the workers we need,” AUSVEG national public affairs manager Tyson Cattle said.
“Growers are continuing to struggle to find the workers they need for their upcoming harvest.”
Labor has accused the Morrison government of bungling the introduction of an agriculture visa after it emerged little design work was completed in the past three years.
Opposition agriculture spokeswoman Julie Collins last week criticised the lack of detail around the proposal.
“It is a shambolic process from a tired government that prefers making announcements to delivering for Australian farmers who face crippling workforce shortages,” she said.
The horticulture sector has also faced a series of revelations about worker exploitation and underpayment on Australian farms.Jump to next article