Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Omicron support for farmers

Agriculture Minister, Damien O’Connor, has announced $400,000 funding to support farmers and growers facing the highly contagious COVID-19 variant, Omicron.

“The Government has allocated $400,000 to support primary producers with contingency planning and response if a farmer or grower contracts COVID-19,” Mr O’Connor said.

The funding will bolster the resources of Rural Support Trusts and other organisations, including those supporting Māori agribusinesses, to help them respond to cases, he said.

“This funding will help ensure there’s someone that farmers and growers can speak to and provide guidance should they or their staff be dealing with Omicron. The Rural Support Trusts are well woven into rural communities to provide wrap around support services.”

“The sector has to date been resilient throughout the pandemic. The hard work of farmers and growers along with those involved in keeping supply chains open and exports flowing, is leading Aotearoa New Zealand’s trade-led recovery from COVID-19.”

He said the latest Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries (SOPI) shows revenue from food and fibre exports is predicted to hit a record $50 billion in the year to 30 June 2022.

“But the Government is committed to keeping vital workforces going. Primary producers have always been essential workers throughout the pandemic, but as Omicron reaches further into our communities, we are stepping up to ensure we can protect the wellbeing of our rural communities,” the Minister said.

“The most important thing New Zealanders can do to prepare is to get their vaccine booster dose, before Omicron takes off in the community.”

Contingency planning by farmers, growers and lifestyle block owners will minimise the risk of further COVID-19 related disruptions, which can occur anywhere along the supply chain, he said.

“It’s vital all food and fibre producers have a plan. It makes it easier for other people to step in and help run your farm, or feed your livestock, at short notice.”

“There are several free checklists available which have been developed by industry and MPI. I encourage people to make use of them.”

Wage support is also available through the Leave Support Scheme for people affected during this stage of the Omicron outbreak. 

“This is available to employers, and also includes self-employed people, to help pay their employees who’ve been advised to self-isolate because of COVID and can’t work at home during that period,” said Mr O’Connor.

“It’s paid at the same rates as the wage subsidy was previously, that being $600 per week per full-time worker and $359 per week per part-time worker.

“Our Rural Support Trusts do great work when things are at their most difficult in the provinces. Whether it’s drought, floods, or now, a pandemic. The Trusts can respond in a case-by-case basis and make sure people aren’t left isolated. This includes ensuring that mental health is well-supported.”

The targeted funding is being administered by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and will initially be available until 1 April 2022, in line with the Government’s Covid-19 response planning.

Free Covid-19 checklists for farmers, growers and lifestyle block owners:

Download the COVID-19 on-farm checklist for farmers here.

Download the COVID-19 checklist for lifestyle block owners here.

Download the COVID-19 checklist for orchardists here.

Download the COVID-19 checklist for winegrowers here.

Leave Support Scheme link here

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