Victorian farmers and agricultural workers must have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine if they wish to continue working after October 15.
Today, Premier Daniel Andrews announced authorised workers must have at least one vaccine dose to continue working on-site after October 15 and will need to be fully vaccinated by November 26.
Employees in many parts of the agricultural supply chain are deemed “authorised workers” by the Victorian Government.
The following agricultural activities are covered in the announcement:
- farming activities and other operations relating to agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, irrigation, permaculture, apiculture, grains, fibre production, dairy, flower industry, commercial fishing, aquaculture and livestock; or
- intensive agricultural production including; greenhouses and animal production; or
- agricultural, veterinary chemicals and vaccine production, transportation and distribution (including the Pig Services Centre); or
- laboratory and diagnostic services; or
- animal feed production, transportation, packaging, sale, and feeding (including livestock and pets); or
- animal pounds and shelters (no public access).
You can see the full list on the Victorian government website.
The list above was current as of midday, October 1.
Taken by surprise
As the industry approaches a busy harvest period for grain, fruits and vegetables, the announcement caught many industry leaders by surprise.
The announcement even drew anger from the state’s peak farm advocacy group.
“This came as a surprise, and not just to us,” said Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president Emma Germano.
She said the industry had begged a while back to be included in the second phase of the vaccine rollout.
Ms Germano employs staff at her family’s property at Mirboo North in Gippsland.
“My understanding is that if you get caught that both the staff member and the employer would be liable for a fine.”
However Catherine Velisha, managing director of Velisha Farms at Werribee, welcomed the announcement.
“It’s fantastic that farmers and the agriculture sector have been included in today’s announcement for mandatory vaccination in Victoria,” Ms Velisha said.
An industry already short of workers
Farmers in Victoria already struggle to find shearers, pickers, harvest workers, and milkers.
The ABC contacted Victorian Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas to ask how the rules would affect an already stretched workforce.
A spokesperson referred to the health department’s guidelines.
It is unclear whether the rule will apply to farmers who live and work on the same property.
In a written statement, an Australian Wool Innovation spokesperson said the organisation encouraged everyone in the industry to follow best practice. The company wouldn’t provide further comment.