Horticulture farmers have almost no difficulty filling job vacancies, according to a federal government report undermining the sector's demand for a new visa category.
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) surveyed 2400 farms representing 74 per cent of the country's farm employment.
Some 14 per cent of vegetable growers and 18 per cent of both fruit and nut growers said they had difficulty recruiting workers, far less than 37 per cent of employers who had trouble across the economy.
The broadacre and dairy sectors had the most pronounced workforce challenges.
Farmers reported recruiting for more than 20,000 jobs, with just 700 unfilled.
Vegetable farms as well as fruit and nut farms filled more than 99 per cent of vacancies in 2016/17, compared with 92 per cent across the economy.
"For horticulture farmers in particular, the low skilled nature of the work, the use of contract labour and access to backpackers appears to reduce recruitment difficulties faced," the report found.
It comes amid a long-running push for an agriculture visa, which farmers claim is vital to addressing worker shortages.
National Farmers' Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said the government's results did not align with what farmers were saying.
"Strangely, this is almost the exact opposite of what NFF members report the situation to be," he said.
"We have strong reservations about the report as we know the farm labour shortage is most severe in horticulture and while it is still a serious problem, it is less so in the dairy and broadacre sectors."
He criticised the research for not covering key fruit-growing regions.
"Despite the findings by ABARES, we remain firmly of the view that there is a problem," Mr Mahar said.
The NFF's own labour survey found 43 per cent of farmers experienced labour shortages during peak season, while 23 per cent said they had a constant shortage.
Just 21 per cent said they never experienced shortages.
The ABARES survey found more than one-third of seasonal jobs during peak times on vegetable, fruit and nut farms were filled by overseas workers.
Backpackers made up about 20 per cent of all workers at the peak of seasonal employment on horticulture operations.
But that number is expected to increase after the government expanded working holiday visas in November last year.
Horticulture farms also use more contract labour, with 10 per cent of workers from an unknown background.
"Not knowing the background of contract labour puts farmers at risk of using undocumented workers from unscrupulous labour hire companies," the report said.
Family and other Australian workers make up the majority of the agricultural workforce, according to ABARES.
© AAP 2019