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 8 July 2020 1:30pm

Latest information on CorOnavirus (COVID19)

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

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

Stay informed. Download the official Australian Government “Coronavirus Australia” app in the Apple App Store or Google Play, or join the Government's WhatsApp channel on iOS or Android. '

VICTORIA STAY AT HOME RESTRICTIONS *UPDATED 8 JULY 2020*

From 11.59pm on Wednesday 8 July, if you live in the Melbourne metropolitan area and the Shire of Mitchell then Stay at Home restrictions will apply.

The Melbourne metropolitan area includes the Local Government Areas of Casey, Cardinia, Hume, Melton, Mornington Peninsula, Whittlesea and Wyndham. 

There are four reasons that you can leave home:

  • Shopping for food or other essential items
  • To provide care giving, for compassionate reasons or to seek medical treatment
  • For exercise (outdoor exercise only, with only one other person or members of your household)
  • Work or study, if you cannot work or study from home

Farmers travelling as part of their business duties are able to do so. The VFF recommends that farmers or their staff travelling for work purposes keep with them evidence of their home address, employment and of their need to travel for the purpose of primary production and supply chain.

Victorians outside the Melbourne metropolitan area and Shire of Mitchell are being asked to use common sense when it comes to visiting friends and family, especially those who are more vulnerable. 

If you need to travel through the Melbourne metropolitan area and the Shire of Mitchell, you can. You should plan your trip so that you don’t need to stop in an impacted area unless it is for a reason stated above. 

STATE BORDER CLOSURES *UPDATED 8 JULY 2020*

NEW SOUTH WALES

From Wednesday 8 July any person living in Victoria seeking to cross the New South Wales border will require a permit.

Permits will be issued by Service NSW and it has been confirmed Victorian farmers will be able to attain a permit to travel to NSW for the purposes of ‘agriculture’ and ‘the movement of freight or persons on a commercial basis’.

Who needs to attain a permit to enter NSW?
All people, except an emergency or law enforcement services worker or a person entering NSW to avoid injury or escape a risk of harm, will need a permit to enter NSW from Victoria.

How do I apply for a permit?
Service NSW are managing the permit system.

Click here to apply for a permit and further information.

Is there eligibility criteria required to access a permit?
Yes, to be eligible for a permit you need to meet eligibility criteria

The eligibility criteria includes cross border residents (living within 50km of the border) and a person providing critical services. 

Has agriculture been deemed a critical service and are farmers eligible to apply for permits?

Amongst other services, ‘agriculture’ and ‘the movement of freight or persons on a commercial basis’  is defined as a critical service under the NSW Public Health (COVID-19 Border Control) Order 2020. The Order can be viewed in full by clicking here

Where can I access further information?
The Service NSW website contains detailed information on who's eligible for a permit, how to apply and continued updates as the situation evolves. Click here to access the website
The VFF Membership Services team are available on 1300 882 833
 
The VFF will continue to work with both the NSW and Victorian governments and the NSW Farmers Association to ensure agriculture continues unaffected across border regions.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

As of Wednesday 8 July 2020, the South Australian Government is imposing stricter controls over entry into the state.

A pre-approval process is now in place for travellers wishing to enter South Australia.

Click here to apply for travel registration into South Australia and for further information. 

If you are planning travel to South Australia, aim to complete the Cross Border Travel Registration at least three days before you leave, regardless of where your travel begins.

Essential travellers include persons who are ordinarily resident at, or near, a South Australian border and who, in the ordinary course of their occupation, education or daily life, have reasonable cause to travel across that border.

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

 

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

Managing your workplace and employees

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

  • Coronavirus: Information for employers  Click here
  • Managing Coronavirus in the workplace - Click here
  • Coronavirus Checklist for employers - Click here

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 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.

Farm Labour

The Victorian Government has announced a $50 million Agriculture Workforce Plan to match workers who have lost their jobs with employers in the agriculture sector, helping agribusinesses and primary producers to meet their labour and operational needs.

Individuals, farmers and businesses who wish to register for the Agriculture Workforce Plan can do so at vic.gov.au/workingforvictoria. For more information about the plan click here

The Commonwealth Government has decided to extend the visas of foreign workers already working in Australia pursuant to the Pacific Labour Scheme, Seasonal Worker Programmes, and Working Holiday Programmes.

Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme workers are able to extend their stay for 12 months to work for approved employers. Working Holiday Makers will be exempt from the six-month limit with one employer and be eligible for a further visa to continue helping farmers get on with the job.

If you are a job seeker looking for harvest work or an employer who needs harvest workers, please phone the HLS provider in your area. You can find their contact information
here

Travel to work 

The VFF Horticulture Group has received enquiries about farm staff travelling together to the workplace.

Employers and employees should know that it is not illegal for farm workers to be travelling in groups of more than two in a vehicle. It is however important to treat COVID-19 as a health and safety risk to your employees. 

Employers are encouraged to undertake the following tasks:
- Provide documentation or a letter for employees to bring with them when travelling noting what your business does and if it is considered essential work
- Minimise number of employees in a vehicle
- Provide proper protective equipment
- Maximise vehicle ventilation
- Maximise distance between employees in vehicles
- Practice all appropriate hygiene and distancing measures

fertiliser and agvet chemicals

Australia is not currently experiencing a shortage of fertiliser or agvet chemicals. While there were supply issues at the start of the year as much of China was in shutdown, factories in China are producing again, and supply is flowing. There has been some level of panic buying by farmers which, coupled with increased demand following recent rains, has tightened supply. Local production of fertiliser and agvet chemicals has been unaffected so far.

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

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 33 25

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.