Agricultural business FAQs for coronavirus

What are the new restrictions for metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria?

The Victorian Government recently announced a roadmap for reopening Victoria. Moving from stages to steps gives Victorians a long-term plan for the path out of restrictions and into COVID Normal.

These steps will be guided by dates – and the data. The clear and articulated case targets create “trigger points” for review for the public health team – and give Victorians even more insight into how the state is tracking. More information is available here.

Regional Victoria

From 11.59pm 13 September 2020, some restrictions will be eased across Victoria, subject to ‘trigger points’ being met and public health advice.

Regional Victoria has a specific roadmap relating to how many active coronavirus (COVID-19) cases are in the community.

From 11.59pm 13 September 2020, Regional Victoria will move straight to the Second Step of the roadmap for reopening Key points for the Second Step are:

  • Only leave home for four reasons: school or work (if these can not be done from home), care or caregiving, to purchase essentials, and for exercise
  • Public gatherings: up to five people from a maximum of two households can meet outdoors for social interaction (infants under 12 months of age are not included in the cap)
  • Visitors to the home: "Single person bubble" one nominated visitor if living alone/single parent (all children under 18)
  • Childcare and early educators is open to all children
  • Schools return to onsite learning from Term 4 with safety measures
  • Outdoor exercise and recreation allowed
  • Restaurants and cafes open for takeaway and delivery only
  • Retail: open, with density and other restrictions, hairdressing open

More information about the roadmap for regional Victoria can be found here.

Metropolitan Melbourne

From  11.59pm 13 September 2020, some restrictions will be eased across Victoria, subject to ‘trigger points’ being met and public health advice.

Metropolitan Melbourne has a specific roadmap, relating to how many active coronavirus (COVID-19) cases are in the community and public health advice.

From 11.59pm 13 September 2020, Melbourne will move to the First Step on the roadmap. Key points for the First Step are:

  • A curfew is in place from 9pm to 5am
  • Stay within 5km of your home except for permitted reasons such as work or education if these can not be done at home
  • Exercise or recreation: Two people or a household can meet outdoors for two hours maximum
  • Visitors to the home: "Single person bubble" one nominated visitor if living alone/single parent (all children under 18)
  • Childcare and schools continue remote and flexible learning with on-site supervision for children of permitted workers
  • Shopping for essentials, one person per household, once a day
  • Restaurants and cafes open for takeaway and delivery only

More information about the roadmap for reopening metropolitan Melbourne can be found here.

What are the restriction levels for the Agriculture Industry in metropolitan Melbourne for each step of the roadmap?

All businesses with more than five employees must have a Plan for onsite operations.

Each industry will also have different restriction levels depending on which step they are in.

High Risk COVIDSafe Plan is mandatory for abattoirs and meat processing businesses, including seafood and poultry.

For templates, information and guidance on developing a COVIDSafe Plan, visit: Creating a COVIDSafe workplace.

Regional Victoria

Regional  Victoria has specific industry restriction levels relating to how many active coronavirus (COVID-19) cases are in the community.

More detail of each step can be found here.

For all steps on the roadmap for reopening from now until COVID Normal, the agriculture industry can remain open with a COVIDSafe Plan.

Metropolitan Melbourne

Metropolitan  Melbourne has specific industry restriction levels relating to how many active coronavirus (COVID-19) cases are in the community.

More detail of each step can be found here.

For all steps on the roadmap for reopening from now until COVID Normal, the agriculture industry can remain open with a COVIDSafe Plan.

Is my farm or agribusiness classified as an essential service?

Regional Victoria

The Victorian Government continues to recognise the critical importance of the agriculture and food sector and will ensure our farms and agribusinesses keep operating – to keep the supermarket shelves stocked and food on Victorian tables.

All businesses must also adhere to the following COVIDSafe principles for business:

  • ensure  physical distancing (1.5 metres)
  • wear a mask or face covering
  • practice good hygiene
  • keep good records and act quickly if staff become unwell
  • avoid interactions in close spaces
  • create workforce bubbles

High-risk workplaces, such as abattoirs and meat processing plants, that are continuing to operate will have additional requirements in place including reduced work capacity, extra PPE, staggered shifts and breaks, health declarations and more financial support for sick workers to ensure they stay at home. For details of specific requirements for abattoirs and meat processing facilities, visit the Agriculture Victoria website.

Metropolitan Melbourne

The Victorian Government continues to recognise the critical importance of the agriculture and food sector and will ensure our farms and agribusinesses keep operating – to keep the supermarket shelves stocked and food on Victorian tables.

Farming in metropolitan Melbourne can continue, including operations connected with agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, irrigation, permaculture, apiculture, grains, fibre production, dairy, fishing, aquaculture and livestock.

Agriculture and farming support business can also remain operating, including and not limited to on-farm consultants, livestock agents, agronomists, shearing contractors, trades services and contracting businesses, laboratory and diagnostic services, animal saleyards, knackeries and transportation of animals (including livestock and pets), animal feed production, transportation, packaging, sale, and feeding (including livestock and pets). Employers and employees who work in these industries must wear a face covering at all times (unless there is a lawful reason not to), regularly wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water and must maintain a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres between each other.

From 11.59pm Friday 7 August, all businesses and services that are still operating in metropolitan Melbourne that have more than five employees must have implemented a COVIDSafe Plan. The Plan should include how, as an employer, you intend to help prevent the introduction of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your workplace and how you will prepare for, and respond to, a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in your workplace. For more information on COVIDSafe Plans, visit the Business Victoria website.

High-risk workplaces, such as abattoirs and meat processing plants, that are continuing to operate will have additional requirements in place including reduced workforce capacity, extra PPE, staggered shifts, staggered breaks, health declarations and more financial support for sick workers to ensure that they stay at home. For details of specific requirements for abattoirs and meat processing facilities, visit the Agriculture Victoria website.

All open businesses must also continue to ensure all employees maintain a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres between workers whenever possible, regularly wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water, and wear face coverings unless there is a lawful reason not to.

If you have any of symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild, you should seek advice and get tested. You must also remain at home while waiting for the results and not go to work.

If you test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), you must self-isolate at home until you return a negative test for coronavirus (COVID-19).

For details of financial assistance available for workers who are in isolation awaiting test results or because they have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), visit: www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/covid-19-worker-support-payment

For the further information on restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), please visit the Department of Health and Human Services.

Can I travel between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria?

Regional Victoria

Under the Second Step of the roadmap for reopening, all people from regional Victoria should avoid travel unless it is for essential work or caregiving purposes or buying necessary goods and services.

People in regional Victoria should only enter metropolitan Melbourne for the following reasons:

  • essential caregiving, including for animals
  • work – with a signed worker permit from your employer if you cannot work from home
  • buy necessary goods and services, and provided you comply with First Step reopening requirements.

Work includes tasks essential to running a farm business.

Regional Victorians who travel to metropolitan Melbourne for one of the reasons listed above must abide by the restrictions in place for metropolitan Melbourne.

From 11:59pm on Wednesday 5 August, employers that require their staff to attend a work site in metropolitan Melbourne must issue a worker permit to their employees, signed by an authorised person such as the CEO, a HR manager, an operations manager or anyone else suitable.

Sole traders must issue and sign the worker permit as both the employer and employee. For sub-contractors, the employer may be the main contractor, or it may be that the sub-contractor is a sole trader.

Worker permit guidelines and the worker permit template are available on the Business Victoria website.

If you must leave your home, stay safe by washing your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water, wear a face covering, and maintain at least 1.5 metres physical distance between yourself and others at all time.

If you have been tested for coronavirus (COVID-19), you must remain at home until you return a negative test result.

If you feel unwell or have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), you must remain at home until you return a negative test result.

Metropolitan Melbourne

Under the restrictions that are part of the First Step to recovery, groceries, shopping and exercise must be carried out within 5 km of your home.

You may only travel into regional Victoria for:

  • essential caregiving, including for animals
  • work – with a signed worker permit from your employer if you cannot work from home
  • buy necessary goods and services.

Work includes tasks essential to running a farm business.

If workers are travelling from metropolitan Melbourne to regional Victoria for work, the requirements under the current metropolitan Melbourne restrictions travel with them, so they need to abide by metropolitan Melbourne restrictions.

Since 11:59pm on Wednesday 5 August, employers that require their staff to attend a work site in metropolitan Melbourne must issue a worker permit to their employees, signed by an authorised person such as the CEO, a HR manager, an operations manager or anyone else suitable.

Sole traders must issue and sign the worker permit as both the employer and employee. For sub-contractors, the employer may be the main contractor, or it may be that the sub-contractor is a sole trader.

Worker permit guidelines and the worker permit template are available on the Business Victoria website.

If you must leave your home, stay safe by washing your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water, wear a face covering, and maintain at least 1.5 metres physical distance between yourself and other at all time.

If you feel unwell, have taken a coronavirus (COVID-19) test, or have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), you must remain at home and wait for your test results.

Am I required to wear a face covering when working on my farm?

Regional Victoria and Metropolitan Melbourne

Everyone in all parts of Victoria aged 12 years and over must wear a face covering when they leave home.

This measure has been introduced to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) – people who do not wear face coverings and do not have a lawful excuse not to wear one can be fined $200.

If you’re working alone on your own farm or with people from your own household, you do not need to wear a face covering.

However, if workers, advisors or contractors from outside the household come onto the farm, everyone should wear a face covering to prevent spreading the virus.

There will be times when this just isn't practical – such as when doing strenuous farm work such as shearing.

Workers should use common sense and take other steps to limit the spread of the virus, including keeping at least 1.5 metres between themselves and others, and regularly washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water.

For more information on face coverings visit the Department of Health and Human Services.

What should I do if I am unwell or am required to isolate?

Regional Victoria and Metropolitan Melbourne

If you have any of symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild, you should seek advice and get tested. As soon as you have been tested, you must return to the place you are isolating immediately and remain there until you receive your test result. You must isolate until you receive your test result – this typically takes 1 to 3 days. If you are unwell, you should stay home even after a negative test result until you are better.

If you have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), you must isolate in your home immediately unless you are admitted to a hospital or other facility for medical care. When notified of your positive test result, if you are not at the place where you will isolate, you must go there immediately and begin isolation, without making any stops.

An officer from the Department of Health and Human Services will call you to support you through your isolation period. They will talk to you about who you have been in contact with and where you have been to help them identify your close contacts.

You will need to provide the officer the address of the place you will isolate and provide the name of any other people residing at the premises. This is important as they will need to quarantine themselves.

You must isolate until you receive a clearance from the Department of Health and Human Services. The officer from the Department who calls you will explain what this means and answer any questions you may have

Please note that those who have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) or are close contacts will no longer be able to leave their homes for exercise. A limited number of reasons to leave the home will remain – including seeking medical care, in an emergency, or if required by law. However, if you fail to prove you were out for a permitted reason, you could be fined up to $4,957.

For details of financial assistance available for workers who are in isolation awaiting test results or because they have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), visit the Department of Health and Human Services.

For the further information on restrictions on how to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), please visit the Department of Health and Human Services.

What support am I entitled to if I’ve been financially impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Regional Victoria and Metropolitan Melbourne

The Victorian Government is delivering a $1.7 billion economic and jobs package and a Business Support Fund (BSF) - Expansion program to help Victorian businesses and workers survive the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19).

As part of the package, businesses with annual taxable wages up to $3 million will have their payroll tax for the 2019-20 financial year waived.

The State Revenue Office will also directly contact eligible businesses to reimburse them for payroll tax already paid in the financial year. These businesses can also defer paying payroll tax for the first quarter of the 2020-21 financial year.

The Agriculture Workforce Plan is providing targeted support to agriculture, food processing and critical food supply chain businesses in rural, regional and outer metropolitan areas in Victoria, to meet their labour and operational needs during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Under  the Plan, a range of financial support is also available. Business Adaptation grants are helping to keep food supply chains safe and secure, while job-matching and funding for worker relocation, transport and training is helping job seekers transition from other industries. New positions with Catchment Management Authorities to implement projects with agriculture benefits have also been supported around the state, and a package put in place to support farmers and producers transition to online markets and build business resilience and skills during the pandemic.

The Agriculture Workforce Plan is part of the Victorian Government’s Working for Victoria Fund, which helps people who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic find new opportunities. Businesses across the state can register their needs on the platform and access a talent pool of jobseekers.

To apply for assistance under the Agriculture Workforce Plan, visit the Agriculture Victoria website.

For details of financial assistance available for workers who are in isolation awaiting test results or because they have tested positive for coronavirus, visit the Department of Health and Human Services.

For businesses that suffer significant losses or need to close as a result of the current restrictions, support is also available through the Victorian Government’s expanded Business Support Fund.

  • $10,000 for employing businesses in Mitchell Shire in recognition of spending longer under restrictions
  • $5,000 for employing businesses outside metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.

To get more information on the business support fund visit: www.business.vic.gov.au/support-for-your-business/grants-and-assistance/business-support-package/business-support-fund

The Australian Government has released its economic plan to support people and businesses. Read more about this package and the JobKeeper payment.

Businesses can also call Business Victoria’s dedicated hotline 13 22 15 or visit the Business Victoria website which is regularly updated with the latest information.

Food regulators, PrimeSafe and Dairy Food Safety, are also working with licensees to provide information to assist in continuity of the supply of food to consumers, and guidance about hygiene and cleaning.

A range of Commonwealth support is also available for businesses and employees, including JobSeeker and JobKeeper. For more information visit Services Australia and the Australian Taxation Office.

What impact will restrictions have on Victorian saleyards?

Metropolitan Melbourne and Regional Victoria

Under the restrictions on businesses,  animal saleyards can still operate across Victoria.

Local councils and saleyard operators will decide on specific saleyard operations, considering legal direction on the number of people at sales, prescribed face covering, physical distancing and hygiene requirements, and risks in their areas and supply chains.

Alternative selling options, including direct consignment to abattoirs and online selling platforms, continue as usual.

Can I still accommodate workers on my property?

Metropolitan Melbourne and Regional Victoria

In all parts of Victoria, accommodation for agricultural workers should ideally be provided on-farm to avoid the need for transportation, which can increase the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission.

Accommodation must be of a standard that allows for appropriate hygiene and physical distancing practices. Premises should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before the workers arrive, after they leave, and as regularly as possible during their stay.

While it would be preferable to ensure rooms and bathrooms are not shared, if they must be shared, consider a roster for use of the bathrooms and follow the following cleaning and disinfecting advice.

Bathroom and showers

  • Daily cleaning of all communal showers and hand basins should be undertaken using a cleaning agent that is designed to remove scum. This may be followed by a disinfectant.
  • All other surfaces in the bathroom should be cleaned using a detergent followed by a disinfectant wipe.
  • All showers and bathroom surfaces should be wiped between users using a detergent or detergent/disinfectant-based wipe.
  • You may wish to consider allocation of bathrooms and showers to reducing mixing.

Kitchens

  • All kitchen surfaces should be cleaned daily using a neutral detergent.
  • This may be followed by using a disinfectant (sanitiser) that is safe to use in areas where food preparation occurs.

Employers who provide worker accommodation must have a plan for how they would support a worker that needs to self-isolate from others if they are a close contact of a person confirmed to have coronavirus (COVID-19) or if they test positive to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Can my animal get sick from coronavirus (COVID-19)?

There is currently no evidence that animals play a role in the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) to humans.

Cats, dogs and ferrets can contract coronavirus (COVID-19) if they have significant exposure to infected humans. Cats and ferrets may even become ill, but this is a very rare event.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has not been reported in domestic animals or wildlife in Australia.

It is always a good idea for people to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after contact with animals.

For more information, see Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advice for animal owners.

Can I leave my home to care for my animals?

Metropolitan Melbourne (Stage 4)

Outside of curfew, you can travel to another property to care for your animals, even if it is beyond 5km from your home or outside of metropolitan Melbourne. You should limit travel where you can, wear a face covering and avoid traveling with others where possible.

If you do need to leave home to attend to your animals you should comply with the public gathering requirements, implement sensible biosecurity arrangements and practice good hygiene, including hand hygiene before and after handling animals and their equipment, bedding or food. You are required to wear a face covering whenever you leave your home.

If you own or care for an animal that needs veterinary attention, you should make phone contact with your veterinarian for advice.

During curfew hours you may only leave home to provide emergency care for your animals.

If you’ve been directed to self-isolate, you must not leave your home.

Regional Victoria (Stage 3)

You can travel to another property to care for your animals, but you should limit travel where you can.

If you do need to leave home to attend to your animals you should comply with the public gathering requirements, implement sensible biosecurity arrangements and practice good hygiene, including hand hygiene before and after handling animals and their equipment, bedding or food. You are also required to wear a face covering.

If you own or care for an animal that needs veterinary attention, you should make phone contact with your veterinarian for advice.

If you’ve been directed to self-isolate, you must not leave your home.

What’s the impact of restrictions on animal service businesses?

All businesses with more than five employees must have a COVIDSafe Plan for onsite operations.

Under the restrictions on businesses, animal saleyards, knackeries and transportation of animals (including livestock and pets) can remain operating across Victoria.

If anyone from outside your household comes onto your farm, everyone should wear a face covering, keep at least 1.5 metres between themselves and other at all times, and regularly wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water.

What travel restrictions are in place along Victoria's borders between other states?

Restrictions on the movement of Victorians across our borders with South Australia (SA) and New South Wales (NSW) are now in place.

For more information about the NSW border restrictions and cross border management in that state, including entry permits, visit Service NSW website, or call their dedicated coronavirus (COVID-19) information line on 13 77 88. No permit is required to enter Victoria from NSW.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries provides a coronavirus (COVID-19) concierge service to support primary producers to navigate current restrictions. This concierge service can be contacted directly at covidinfo@dpi.nsw.gov.au.

For more information about the South Australian border restrictions, visit the South Australian Government COVID-19 website, or call their dedicated coronavirus (COVID-19) information line on 1800 253 787.

No permit or approval is required to enter Victoria from another state – however you will need to adhere to the restrictions and directions that are in place to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Victoria.

For the most up to date information about coronavirus (COVID-19) and current restrictions in Victoria, visit the Department of Health and Human Services website. People in Victoria can also call the coronavirus (COVID-19) hotline on 1800 675 398.

An Agricultural Workers’ Code is being developed to improve the consistency between jurisdictions for the cross-border movement of agricultural workers.

For current details on border crossing requirements and restrictions, please refer to the individual state website contact details above.

What impact will state border closures have on freight and logistics?

The Victorian Government is working with the New South Wales Government to manage specific impacts on border communities as well as industries that need to cross the border, including freight and other critical services.

Information on permits, freight operations and other critical services, and provisions for residents of border regions are available on the Service NSW website or you can call their information line on 13 77 88.

The border between South Australia and Victoria is also closed to Victorians who are non-essential travellers and specific conditions are in place for freight and commercial transport operators.

For more information about South Australian border restrictions go to the South Australian Government COVID-19 website, or call their dedicated coronavirus (COVID-19) information line on 1800 253 787.

No permit or approval is required to enter Victoria from another state, however, you will need to adhere to the restrictions and directions that are in place to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Victoria, including wearing a face covering when out of the home.

Visit the Australian Interstate Quarantine website for the latest information.

With Agriculture Victoria offices closed, how should we get in contact?

Victorian Government office receptions across the state are currently closed in order to reduce face-to-face contact between staff and members of the community. The decision is in response to the latest advice to help prevent the further spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

We’re continuing to serve the community, but you may need to contact us in different ways.

Call us on 136 186 for a range of information including how best to contact us.

Please consider whether the activity you are contacting us about is necessary at this time. Visit the Department of Health and Humans Services website for the latest coronavirus (COVID-19) advice.

Page last updated: 12 Sep 2020