Some country doctors and shire councillors are pushing for the closure of shire borders to prevent the spread of the virus into vulnerable rural communities. The suggestion is being backed by David Littleproud.
In Western Australia, DPIRD has joined with the ag sector to create an online information hub that would help connect regional employers with casual skilled and unskilled workers. This will hopefully ensure a constant supply of workers to farms when required, while also limiting the spread of disease by reducing the need to travel to secure work.
A new Victorian scheme will help farmers meet their workforce needs. Agriculture Victoria and Regional Development Victoria are working together to match displaced workers to vital industries such as horticulture, dairy, meat and food production and manufacturing, as well as transport and logistics services. They intend to match people within their regions to reduce health risk.
Longreach shearer Raelene Bowden has isolated herself and her team of 15 to protect themselves from the spread of COVID-19. Raelene has put in place strict rules to ensure that they can keep working, including graziers and all others staying outside the shed, they will not go into town, food will be placed onto their utes and separate dwellings have been arranged on all properties. Raelene says the team is on board with the plan and are committed to it for as long as it takes.
The horticulture industry is ramping up pressure on the federal government to extend working holiday visas. Many backpackers are stuck in Australia despite their visas coming to an end. These workers will be essential to getting fruit and vegetable crops off, as approved Pacific Island workers under the Season Work Program are no longer allowed into the country.
Outback stations are implementing strict safety measure to protect themselves from COVID-19. The Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) has banned visitors to its 26 stations, new staff and anyone away from the property temporarily must self isolate for 14 days in designated locations, staff temperatures are checked daily, gear is sanitised after use and staff are no longer allowed in vehicles together and a range of other measures.
Australian Pork Limited’s Hospo4Hospo program launched in Perth. The program will offer free meals to support hospitality industry staff who have lost their job in the shutdown.
Despite the sharemarket posting its worst trading month since 1897, farmland investments are looking brighter as agricultural investments returned 13% last year (5% from income and 7.7% from assets). Demand for farmland last year outstripped supply, as many were hesitant to sell during the bad season. Ag is looking like a very strong investment for a diversified portfolio.
Australian barley has been in high demand from China, particularly following the closure of Russian exports and the low Australian dollar. This appears to have caught some domestic market consumers napping as domestic prices increased at the same time, discouraging purchases. The wheat balance sheet is tight, and another rush on barley exports could lead to a similar issue there.
Eggs are in high demand at the moment to keep up with the surge of home cooking and baking. But not all farmers are well placed to benefit, as those supplying commercial needs lost significant proportions of their business overnight. Though they are able to transition into the supermarkets and home deliveries.Biosecurity, food hygiene and handling procedures have been stepped up to keep delivering the 17.2 million eggs eaten everyday during the pandemic.
The Victorian Opposition and the VFF are calling for rate freezes to protect vulnerable households and businesses. The draft council budgets are set to be released. Despite the 2% cap on rate increases, there is no such cap on municipal charges. The Mornington Peninsula is currently flagging a 15.49% increase in municipal charges.
There are concerns that rescue horses in Tasmania will need to be euthanased as the lockdown measures have crippled the business of one equestrian facility. The lack of income is making it increasingly difficult to keep the horses fed. Animal welfare will also be a challenge for the racing industry, said Tasracing chief executive Paul Eriksson, once the industry’s income was lost.
A MLA program that allows school children to virtually visit sheep and cattle farms has come into its own as children work from home. Children being comfortable in their learning space has led to different and more engaging questions about what farmers actually do.