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: Monday 6 April 3:30pm
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:
Stay informed. Download the official Autrovernment “Coronavirus Australia” app in the Apple App Store or Google Play, or join the Government's WhatsApp channel on iOS or Android.
Managing your workplace and employees
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
firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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
STATE BORDER CLOSURES
The State and Territory Governments have imposed different restrictions on movement across their borders.
The Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, has also announced that Australia’s food production and supply chain will not be affected by coronavirus shutdowns, deeming food production and supply as an essential service.
Currently, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia have border restrictions in place.
The Victorian and New South Wales Governments have not yet imposed any restrictions on travel into the state.
The NFF is regularly monitoring border closures and travel restrictions and providing information. To stay up to date with the latest information: Click here
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 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
- 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
- $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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.