Victorian agriculture will face many challenges as the Coronavirus situation evolves. The VFF is committed to representing our industry at the highest levels and in turn providing our members with important, accurate and timely information.

This page contains information on health advice, managing the workplace and employees, assistance for business and other relevant information.

We will continue to update the page as the situation evolves. Last updated: Wednesday 16 September 2020, 4:00PM

VICTORIA STAY AT HOME RESTRICTIONS

REGIONAL VICTORIA

Regional Victoria will move to Step 3 restrictions from 11:59pm Wednesday 16 September

What does this mean?

Social
leave home - no restrictions on reasons to leave home or distance you can travel but stay safe
public gatherings - up to 10 people outdoors
visitors to the home - create a ‘household bubble’ with one nominated household allowing up to 5 visitors from that household at a time (infants under 12 months of age are not included in the cap)

Education and childcare
childcare - open
schools - staged return to onsite learning for all students in Term 4 with safety measures in place

Work
work from home if you can

Shopping, personal services, eating and drinking out
hospitality - predominantly outdoor, group limit of 10 and density limits
retail - all open, hairdressing and beauty services where a face covering can be worn for the duration of service
real estate - private inspections by appointment only, auctions outdoors subject to gathering limits
shopping - no person limits

Exercise and recreation
Outdoor contact and non-contact sport for people aged 18 and younger, outdoor non-contact sport only for adults, with gathering and density limits, outdoor skateparks open, outdoor fitness for groups of 10 people

Ceremonies and special occasions
weddings - allowed with up to 10 people (including the couple, two witnesses and celebrant)
funerals - allowed with up to 20 people (infants under 12 months of age or people required to conduct the funeral not included in the limit)
religion - outdoor religious gatherings for up to 10 people plus a faith leader, places of worship open for private worship for households or social bubbles, plus a faith leader

Entertainment, leisure and travel
travel within Victoria - allowed across all areas in the Third Step (except travel to areas with higher restrictions)
entertainment - outdoor venues and events open, subject to pre-approved plans
accommodation - open, with caps per the social bubble

Note: Regional Victorians must continue to where a face covering unless an exception applies and farm businesses with 5 or more staff (including business operators) are required to have a COVID Safe Plan.

Click here for detailed information

METROPOLITAN MELBOURNE

From 6pm on 2 August, stage 4 restrictions are in place across metropolitan Melbourne. 

All farming business in metropolitan Melbourne can remain open including operations connected with agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, irrigation, permaculture, apiculture, grains, fibre production, dairy, fishing, aquaculture and livestock. 

All business in metropolitan Melbourne must enact a COVID-Safe Plan by 11:59pm Friday 7 August. 

From 2 August, a curfew will be in place in metropolitan Melbourne. Curfews will be in operation from 8pm to 5am every evening, with people only allowed to leave their house for work, and essential health, care or safety reasons.

From 5am – 8pm, you can only leave your home for one of the following reasons:
Necessary goods and services
Exercise
Care and health care
Work
Personal

Click here for detailed information

COVID SAFE PLAN

The Victorian Government has updated its COVID Safe Plan advice for all Victorian businesses and advice for business operating under Stage 4 restrictions.

From 11:59pm on Friday 7 August, you must have a completed COVID Safe Plan if you are located in metropolitan Melbourne and have 5 or more employees. A COVID Safe Plan is advised for residents located in regional Victoria, however the VFF is encouraging all members to complete and follow a COVID Safe Plan to ensure the safest possible practises are in place.

Click here to create your COVID Safe Plan

FACE MASKS

On 30 July 2020 the Victorian Government announced changes that will affect all Victorians in relation to the wearing of face masks. 

From 11:59pm Sunday 2 August 2020, all residents in rural and regional Victoria will be required to wear a face mask whilst outside of the home. 

This rule has applied to residents and visitors in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire since 22 July. 

There will be some reasons not to wear a face mask – those who have a medical reason, kids under 12, those who have a professional reason or if it is just not practical – like when undertaking physical labour. Although you will still be expected to carry your face mask at all times. 

To ensure compliance with the regulations set by the Victorian Government, the VFF recommends that all farmers and farm workers ensure they carry a face mask at all times and wear it when necessary. 

For information regarding face masks click here.

MANAGING YOUR WORKPLACE AND EMPLOYEES

The VFF encourages employers is to be extra vigilant as COVID-19 reaches our doorstep. Farmers must implement best protective measures for their businesses and workers: face coverings for employees, ceasing communal gatherings, installing screens/curtains, furloughing of staff, physical distancing, cleaning and disinfection measures and insisting on personal hygiene and use of sanitizer, minimising the number of people coming onto your farm.

Resources for Employers

The VFF Workplace Relations Team has produced fact sheets to provide information that farm employers need at this time:


VFF members should contact the Workplace Relations Team on 1300 882 833 or by email wr@vff.org.au for advice and assistance with managing their employees

WorkSafe Victoria has information about managing exposure to coronavirus in workplaces as well as a guide for employers preparing the workplace for pandemic: Click here

The National Farmers Federation has produced a Workplace Guide which contains basic advice on managing the impact on farming workplaces, including relevant work health and safety and industrial relations considerations. The agriculture industry has a collective responsibility to put in place good practices to help stop the spread of coronavirus: Click here 

At a minimum, your business should require all staff and visitors to wear face masks, implement social distancing procedures where no people are allowed to be within 1.5 metres of one another and all employees must practice good hygiene such as regularly washing hands
. Even though many farmers may think they are far removed from the epicentres of the virus’ spread, there is no excuse for putting your health and safety and of those around you at risk.

Permitted worker permitS

Employers in Melbourne who require staff to attend a work site must issue a worker permit to their employees – this is the employer’s responsibility. Sole traders must issue a worker permit and sign the worker permit as both the employer and employee. For information on the Permitted Worker Permits click here

Workplace attendance register

Businesses operating under stage 4 restrictions must maintain a workplace attendance register. 
Click here to access the workplace attendance register template.

IF AN EMPLOYEE HAS COVID-19
WorkSafe has amended Incident Notification reporting requirements due to COVID-19. The changes commenced on Tuesday 28 July 2020 and are for a 12 month period.

Employers or self employed need to notify WorkSafe immediately after becoming aware that: 

- an employee, independent contractor, employee of the independent contractor or self-employed person has received a confirmed diagnosis of coronavirus (COVID-19) and;
- the employee, independent contractor, employee of the independent contractor or self-employed person has attended the workplace within the relevant infection period.

To notify WorkSafe call 13 23 60 and lodge details of the incident. WorkSafe will email you a link to an online incident notification form which must be completed within 48 hours.  

STATE BORDER CLOSURES 

NEW SOUTH WALES

NSW has extended its critical service (agriculture) permit to allow: 
NSW residents to re-enter NSW after travelling 100km into Victoria (other than in a restricted area or COVID-19 area of concern) to provide certain critical agriculture services, without having to fly to Sydney and enter mandatory quarantine as a returning NSW resident.   
Victorians to move within Victoria (other than in a restricted area or COVID-19 area of concern) and remain eligible to travel up to 100km into NSW to provide critical agriculture services. 
A full list of restricted areas and area of concern are available on the NSW Government website.

Under the critical service (agriculture) permit, a critical agricultural service must
not be able to be provided remotely
not be available within a 100km radius in the State where the service is to be provided.

In addition, if you are a critical service agriculture worker, to enter NSW you must
not have been in a restricted area or a COVID-19 area of concern within the last 14 days
travel by the most practicable direct route between where the service is provided and your home or accommodation
comply with a COVID-19 Safety Plan for critical agricultural workers
have documentary evidence that the critical agricultural service meets the criteria (this must be signed by the head of the organisation that employs you or if you are self-employed, the person you are providing the service to).

If you are a Victorian resident, in addition to the above which applies to all critical service agriculture workers, you person must 
(a) self-isolate except when providing the service, and  
(b) not travel more than 100 km north of the border.  

If you are a NSW resident, you must  
(a) not travel more than 100 km south of the border, and  
(b) self-isolate on returning to NSW except when providing a critical agriculture service in NSW, unless the NSW resident self-isolated for the whole time the person was in Victoria except when providing the critical agriculture service. 

For more information regarding eligibility and how to apply for a Critical Services (Agriculture) Permit, or to seek an exemption, contact Service NSW

Please note that the implementation of the Agriculture Workers’ Code is to be done separately. 

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

As of 12:01am Friday 21 August, South Australia's cross border travel directive will change. Cross border community members crossing the Victorian border will have their essential travellers status suspended.

Those with a Cross-Border Community Member exemption will not be able to enter SA from Victoria for the purpose of education, employment, receiving or giving care, or obtaining supplies. Cross border community members wishing to enter South Australia will be required to re-apply under another essential traveller category. Click here to to re-apply.

The VFF is aware of farmers in border communities being denied these new permits and we are working with all levels of government to achieve a solution. 

Click here to view the latest information 

OTHER STATES

The NFF is regularly monitoring border closures and travel restrictions and providing information. To stay up to date with the latest information: Click here

Australia is not currently experiencing a shortage of fertiliser or agvet chemicals.

VFF COVID-19 ACTION PLAN

In continuing to advocate on your behalf, the VFF has developed an Action Plan outlining  the key challenges COVID-19 poses to Victorian agriculture and what government must do to keep farms open for business.  

State and federal governments have already acted to address a host of these challenges announcing support measures that VFF has advocated for including support for overseas workers, freedom of travel across state borders and declaring agriculture as essential. 

However, the VFF is mindful  the Coronavirus situation is continuing to evolve and unexpected changes can come at any time. 

That is why it is so critical that government continues to follow the VFF's COVID-19 Action plan to ensure our supply chain remains open, our workforce is supported, our workplaces remain safe and our communities remain connected. 

Download the Action Plan: Click here

SALEYARDS AND FRESH PRODUCE MARKETS

Both saleyards and fresh produce markets have been deemed essential to the food supply chain and remain operational. Some operators have chosen to voluntarily place restrictions on who can attend, so please seek information from your local market/saleyard before travelling.

To limit the risk of exposure, Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud has announced that while agriculture saleyards and auctions can continue, they need to comply with strict social distancing and hygiene practices. 

FOOD SAFETY

Food Standards Australia/New Zealand has advised that transmission through food is unlikely and so far, there is no evidence that people have become infected by swallowing the virus in or on food or drink.Support for your Business. For more information: Click here

STAY UP TO DATE

Farmers should closely monitor the Australian Government Department of Health website for updates on the Coronavirus: Click here

You should also closely monitor the Victorian Government website for updates and information: Click here

Service NSW (for permits of essential services to cross the NSW/Vic border): Click here

SA Government (for permits of essential services to cross the SA/Vic border): Click here

Agriculture Victoria has produced information resources to assist farmers. The VFF encourages all farmers to familiarise themselves with this information: Click here 

Farmers can stay updated with the latest information via the Australian Government’s official ‘Coronavirus Australia’ app. This can be downloaded in the Apple App Store or Google Play, or join the Government's WhatsApp channel on iOS or Android. 

Support for your Business

The Federal Government has announced two stages of its economic stimulus package to counter the economic downturn caused by the Coronavirus.

For more information on the Government’s Economic Response to the Coronavirus: Click here

You can also directly contact Treasury for information.
Phone – 02 6263 3030 (Monday-Friday 8:30am to 5:30pm AEST)
Email – TreasuryCOVID-19Coord@TREASURY.GOV.AU

The Victorian Government has launched a hotline for businesses dealing with significant challenges created by the Coronavirus situation. For more information click here or call: 13 22 15

If you are in need of financial support, contact your local Rural Financial Counselling Service. To find your local RFCS click here.

Federal Government Economic Stimulus Package

Tax concessions

  • Increasing the instant asset write-off for investments up to $150,000 (a 5-fold increase) for businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million (a ten-fold increase) until 30 June 2020.
  • Enabling businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million to deduct an additional 50% of the asset cost in the year of purchase for eligible assets, with existing depreciation rules applying to the balance of the asset’s cost. This measure will be in place through to 30 June 2021.


Regional assistance

  • $1 billion to support regions worst affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, including those reliant on agriculture, tourism and education. Further detail on how these funds will be used is being developed.


Small business support

  • Grants of between $2,000 and $25,000 to SMEs with turnover up to $50 million, to maintain operations and to continue to employ staff.
  • Wage subsidies of up to 50% of an apprentice’s and trainee’s wage for up to 9 months from 1 January to 30 September 2020. Where an employer is not able to retain an apprentice, the subsidy will be available to the new employer of the apprentice.
  • Payments of between $20,000 and up to $100,000 to eligible SMEs and not-for profits (ie. those with an aggregated annual turnover under $50 million and that employ workers). The payments will go to employers as a payment equal to 100 per cent of their salary and wages withheld (up from 50 per cent announced in the Stage One package), with the maximum payment being increased from $25,000 to $50,000 and the minimum payment increased from $2,000 to $10,000. The payments are tax free and will flow automatically through the ATO.
  • The Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme where the Government will guarantee 50 per cent of new loans issued by eligible lenders to SMEs up to $20billion.
  • Temporarily increased thresholds at which creditors can issue a statutory demand on a company and the time companies have to respond to statutory demands; temporary relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent; and, amendments to the Corporations Act 2001 to provide temporary and targeted relief for companies to deal with unforeseen events that arise as a result of the Coronavirus.


Household support

  • One-off direct payment of $750 to social security (i.e. pensioners and NewStart recipients), veterans and other income support recipients (including those on Farm Household Allowance).
  • Easier access to some social security payments and a supplementary payment of either $550 or $750 (depending on your welfare payment) on top of existing payments for 6 months. This includes farmers in receipt of the Farm Household Allowance.


Superannuation

  • Access of up to $10,000 of an individual’s superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21, tax free, for those in financial stress as a result of the Coronavirus.
  • Temporary reductions in superannuation minimum drawdown requirements for account - based pensions and similar products by 50 per cent for 2019-20 and 2020-21 for retirees. And further reductions to deeming rates by 0.25 percentage points from those announced in the Stage One package.