Ag adjusts to the new norm under COVID

Ag adjusts to the new norm under COVID

Coronavirus
CONTACTLESS: Crameri's Mitre 10 and CRT rural merchandise sales representative Trent Mortlock masked up preparing for farm deliveries conducted with no contact.

CONTACTLESS: Crameri's Mitre 10 and CRT rural merchandise sales representative Trent Mortlock masked up preparing for farm deliveries conducted with no contact.

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The agricultural sector is learning to be nimble when it comes to the changing rules of business under coronavirus restrictions.

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The agricultural services industry is scrambling to meet the changing rules around business in the coronavirus pandemic.

Farm supply businesses are just one of those that are permitted to operate under the level three restrictions in regional Victoria.

Crameri Mitre 10 and CRT managing director, Bernie Crameri, Maryborough, said it was a never ending task keeping up with the changes and what it meant to their business.

"We've never had a situation like this. My day is about trying to do the one percenters better," he said.

Mr Crameri said they had continued to service farm clients on-farm by making arrangements prior to a visit to ensure there is no contact between staff and the farmer.

"Our staff know where the paddocks are and can inspect and make recommendations, while minimising our contact. Every day we are thinking about how we can make it safer for our staff and clients," he said.

Mr Crameri said they also delivered product to farms but with no contact with the farmer.

Shearing and hay contractors are among a raft of businesses coming to terms with new restrictions about how they do their work.

Under stage four restrictions, agriculture and farming support businesses, including on-farm consultants, livestock agents, agronomists, shearing contractors and contracting businesses remain open for on-site work with a "COVID safe" plan.

Also open include farming operations connected with agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, irrigation, grains, fibre production, dairy and livestock as well as those linked to agricultural and veterinary chemicals and vaccines production, transportation and distribution.

Saleyards, knackeries and transportation of animals is open as well as veterinary clinics and related services, including on-farm visits.

Shearing Contractors Association of Australia secretary Jason Letchford said it was a significant challenge for employers.

"We remind our members that face masks are required across Victoria, with an exemption for strenuous work," he said.

"However the exemption doesn't mean the requirement to keep your workers safe goes away. If you can't eliminate the risk, and if you can't you need to protect your people.

"By not wearing a mask, employers must make up the shortfall by increasing the space for example."

The industry needs to manage the way it manages the risks to ensure it didn't lose its exemption status.

Mr Letchford said the travel restrictions also meant there would be a shortfall of shearers available for the spring shearing flush.

He said normally 480 to 500 New Zealand seasonal workers came to Australia for that time.

He said potentially the industry would be short of shearers for four to five million sheep in that time frame.

Producers should take the opportunity to shear the critical sheep when they get the chance.

Australian Agricultural Contractors Association president Tony Froon said members were aware of the rules.

He said the restrictions around state borders were a problem for contractors with over-sized machinery being able to negotiate bridge crossings.

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