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: Thursday 6 August 2020 3:30pm

VICTORIA STAY AT HOME RESTRICTIONS

REGIONAL VICTORIAthe

From 11:59pm on Wednesday 5 August, Stage 3 Stay at Home restrictions apply in regional Victoria.

If you live in regional Victoria, including Mitchell Shire, there are only four reasons that you can leave home:
to shop for food and essential goods or services
to provide care, for compassionate reasons or to seek medical treatment
to exercise or for outdoor recreation with your household, or one other person
for work or study, if you can’t do it from home

You may no longer have visitors to your home or visit other people in their homes.

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

The NSW Government has temporarily closed the border with Victoria. From midnight Tuesday 21 July a border zone, clearly defined along the Murray River, will restrict entry to NSW for Victorians to extremely limited purposes.

Under a border entry permit, NSW border residents will be restricted in their reasons for travelling into the Victorian side of the border zone. If they travel beyond the border zone into Victoria, they will be required to self-isolate upon return for 14 days.

All critical service providers (except freight) will be required to self-isolate except when providing the critical service. The self-isolation period is for 14 days from when someone enters NSW from Victoria. Under the public health order, critical services include agriculture and veterinary care. 

Seasonal workers who have resided in the defined New South Wales and Victoria border zone, which includes towns such as Mildura, will be able to cross the border daily to undertake farm work in NSW by accessing a border zone resident permit. In order to access the permit, seasonal workers will be required to declare they have not travelled in Victoria, outside the border zone, in the last 14 days. They will also be required to produce evidence of their place of residence and place of work. 

Click here to apply for a permit and further information.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

From 12:01 am Wednesday 29 July, only essential travellers are able to enter South Australia from Victoria. 

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

Essential travellers living in cross border communities can still enter South Australia. You cannot travel further than 40 kilometres over the border into South Australia.

Information for agricultural workers entering South Australia 
Specialist workers in essential services are required to attain prior approval, self-quarantine when not performing duties, wear PPE, maintain a record of close contacts, are required to have a COVID test on day 1 and 12 upon entry and are required to implement a “Risk Mitigation Plan”.

Seasonal workers (including fruit pickers and shearers) are required to attain prior approval, 14 days quarantine required upon arrival, wear PPE, maintain a record of close contacts and are required to have a COVID test on day 1 and 12 upon entry.

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