Agriculture industry engagement on COVID-19 issues

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the way we live and work.

Our agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries are essential to Australia’s recovery, economic prosperity and food security.

We continue to work closely with industry, other governments and the community through the Industry Engagement Team to ensure these industries stay strong.

The new Australian Agriculture Workers Code has been adopted by NSW, ACT, Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory. Read more about the code.

The NSW Government has implemented the Agricultural Worker’s Code into their public health orders. Read more about it here.

The Queensland Government has announced an extension to the class exemption for farmers and agribusiness workers wanting to enter Qld from NSW. Read more about it here.

The Tasmania Government is permitting seasonal agricultural workers from interstate non-affected regions to enter Tasmania to work during the 2020-21 Tasmanian agricultural harvest season. Read more about it here.

From Monday 4 January 2021, people travelling to Victoria from New South Wales for work can apply for a border entry permit if they work in commercial freight services, essential services and agriculture.

Information on COVID-19 requirements changes daily.  Make sure you are up to date by checking the advice of your own state or territory, or the information of other government agencies at

Industry Engagement Team

Who is involved

Mark Tucker has handed over the reins of Senior Industry Engagement Officer to Vikki Fischer.

Mark Tucker, former Senior Industry Engagement Officer, provided the vital liaison point between the department and agriculture, fisheries and forestry stakeholders affected by COVID-19.

Vikki is a long-time officer with the department and, more recently, senior advisor to the Minister for Agriculture. She has a strong understanding of Australia’s agriculture industry and is broadening the scope of industry engagement beyond COVID-19 issues.

Scope of work

Vikki Fischer is a central point of contact for industry members including agriculture, fisheries and forestry stakeholders. She works with other Commonwealth agencies and state governments to ensure industry perspectives inform decisions.

Together we will maintain Australia’s vital agriculture production and supply chains and the communities they support, ensuring we contribute to the economic prosperity of our nation.


You can contact Vikki and her team on:

Essential services

To slow the COVID-19 outbreak, restrictions are in place on non-essential gatherings and businesses. Check restrictions on business in your state/territory.

Emerging issues

Vikki is working closely with the agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries and relevant jurisdictions to identify and progress key issues related to COVID measures that may impact industries.

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State and territory border restrictions

States and territories have some border measures to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

They know the importance of maintaining agriculture, food and fibre supply chains and moving goods around Australia. Services that support agriculture may need to seek exemption from border restrictions.

Each state and territory have their own entry requirements that change intermittently depending on COVID-19 case numbers and other factors. Make sure you understand exceptions for industry. Go to Local advice for information on border restrictions.

Access to designated biosecurity zones (NT, SA, QLD and WA)

On Friday 10 2020 July restrictions to designated biosecurity zones were lifted. This was informed by the Remote framework—conditions for easing remote area travel restrictions announced by the Prime Minister on 15 May 2020.

Some remote communities may still have local restrictions in place.

Agriculture workforce

Our ministers have been working on ways to meet the ongoing needs for the agriculture workforce. 

Agriculture Workers Code

The National Cabinet has developed an Agriculture Workers Code to provide consistency in  approaches to cross-border movement of agriculture workers during COVID-19. Read more here.


The JobKeeper Payment scheme is a temporary subsidy for businesses significantly affected by COVID-19.

The Australian Government extended the JobKeeper payment to those impacted by COVID-19 to 28 March 2021. Rates and  eligibility requirements can be found at JobKeeper (Australian Government).

Harvest jobs

Australian harvest work is seasonal and includes jobs such as picking fruit and vegetables, working in packing sheds and processing plants, pruning and planting.

For more information about available harvest jobs across Australia go to or call the National Harvest Labour Information Service on 1800 062 332.

Work safety for farmers and agricultural workers

Agricultural workers often work and eat, and sometimes live, close to each other. This can increase their risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Employers must take care of the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace. This includes putting in place control measures to minimise the spread of COVID-19.

You must put in place these control measures, even if they result in delays to your production.

See how farmers and agricultural workers can minimise the risk from COVID-19 (Safe Work Australia).

Read the National COVID-19 Safe Workplace Principles.

Changes to temporary visas

Horticulture industries especially rely on seasonal workers. Changes to temporary visas will help producers access the workers they need to harvest Australia’s produce.

Those in the Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme can now continue to work in agriculture and food processing for up to 12 months.

Working Holiday Makers who work in agriculture or food processing will be:

  • exempt from the 6-month limit on work with the 1 employer
  • eligible for a further visa to keep working in these critical sectors if their current visa is due to expire in the next 6 months.

Student visas now also allow students to work more than 40 hours a fortnight in agriculture sectors. These measures provide further job opportunities to support business. Read more here.

Meeting workforce principles

All visa holders must meet all current state and territory requirements. These include self-isolation, social distancing, hygiene and appropriate accommodation.

Relocation scheme

From 1 December 2020, all job seekers who participate in employment service programs and relocate to harvest and regional areas to take up short-term agricultural work, are eligible to receive a relocation assistance (must have work rights and not be receiving income support). See Relocation assistance to take up a job for more information (Department of Education, Skills and Employment)

Changes to Youth Allowance/ ABSTUDY

Young Australians can earn Youth Allowance or ABSTUDY as an independent if they earn $15,000 through agricultural work. See more information about seasonal agricultural work (Services Australia)

Accessing critical skills

Businesses that need critical skills from overseas may help workers to seek an exemption from current border restrictions to enter Australia.

It is useful to provide detailed information, particularly about the need for the critical skill in Australia.

Further information and the request to travel form is available on the Department of Home Affairs website.

Workers who seek to travel before 14 days quarantine must get a separate exemption from the relevant state/territory authority.

Education and Training

The government has measures in place to support people to start work or upskill in the agriculture industry, or new areas of work.

Agricultural work involves a wide range of skills, from roles like fruit pickers, harvester operators and farm managers. You may not need a qualification to start working in agriculture.

However, there are existing and new education and training opportunities in the agriculture sector during COVID-19.

The Australian Industry and Skills Committee is driving the swift and flexible development of training packages. These are being fast-tracked to upskill people working in essential services. Read about their response.

Vocational Education and Training (VET)

VET courses cover all aspects of agricultural business. There are accredited and unaccredited courses.

Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes in many states and territories offer courses free of charge (in full or during the COVID-19 pandemic).  Find out more about VET courses on the My Skills website.

Supporting apprentices and trainees

The government will help up to 70,000 small businesses to keep apprentices and trainees employed.

Find out if you are eligible and how to apply (Department of Education, Skills and Employment).

Career Transition Assistance (CTA)

This program for mature-aged workers has been expanded and made available online. Find out how to access this program and if you are eligible (Department of Education, Skills and Employment).


Job Trainer is a new scheme to give Australians access to new skills by retraining and upskilling them into sectors with job opportunities, as the economy recovers from COVID-19.

This includes help for school leavers and job seekers to access short and long courses to develop new skills in growth sectors and create a pathway to more qualifications.

Read more about JobTrainer (Department of Education, Skills and Employment).

Maritime industries

Read about maritime industries, operators and crew during COVID-19 (Australian Maritime Service Authority - AMSA)

Read advice to the Australian Domestic Commercial Vessel (DCV) industry during COVID-19. (Australian Maritime Service Authority - AMSA)

Read advice to the international maritime industry during COVID-19. (Australian Maritime Service Authority - AMSA)


Australian agriculture exporters have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

We are working to ensure our exports can continue.

Read more about exports and COVID-19.

Assistance for airfreight

We are working closely with industry to support the export of produce. The focus is on markets where consumer demand remains strong.

The International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) was initially a $110 million initiative.

In October 2020, the Australian Government committed a further $317.1 million to extend IFAM until mid-2021. This is in addition to the $241.9 million injection announced in July 2020 to help keep international freight routes and flights operating.

Continued air freight flights  keep our high-value, time-sensitive exports and imports flowing as we continue the economic recovery from COVID-19. The flights are also re-establishing domestic connections for producers and growers in regional and rural areas.

Exporter loans

Exporters affected by COVID-19 restrictions can now access business-saving loans. To access, you must be:

  • established and previously profitable
  • not able to gain finance from commercial sources.

Export Finance Australia will administer the new $500 million COVID-19 Export Capital Facility

Financial hardship

We know that the some of our customers may be facing financial hardship due to COVID-19. If you are having trouble making payments to us, let us know.

See payment options for overdue debts. (Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment)


We rely on imports from around the world. Imports may be disrupted due to transport delays and functioning workplaces. This may affect production and harvests.

We have not put any extra restrictions on imports.

Find out more on imported goods and COVID-19.

Financial hardship

We know that the some of our customers may be facing financial hardship due to COVID-19. If you are having trouble making payments to us, let us know.

See payment options for overdue debts.

Local advice

Check more advice and requirements in your state or territory.

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New South Wales

Read COVID-19 advice on travel and transport in NSW (NSW Government)

Find out about helping businesses get back to work (NSW Government)

See COVID-19 advice for primary industries (Department of Primary Industries)


See information from Victoria’s Cross Border Commissioner (Regional Development Victoria)

Keep up to date at  Coronavirus: Important information for Victorians (Victoria Government)

See COVID-19 advice for primary industries (Agriculture Victoria)

Business Victoria Coronavirus Hotline: 13 22 15


South Australia

See COVID-19 advice and updates for South Australia (Government of South Australia)

Read COVID-19 advice for primary industries (Department of Primary industries and Regions)

Western Australia

See travel advice during COVID-19 ( WA Department of the Premier and Cabinet)

Read essential information on COVID-19 for community and businesses (West Australian Government)

See COVID-19 advice for primary industries (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development)


See advice and updates, including border restrictions, during COVID-19 (Tasmanian Government)

See advice and support for the agricultural sector during COVID-19 (Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment). 

Northern Territory

Australian Capital Territory

See advice and updates during COVID-19 (ACT Government).


Updates on Australia’s response to COVID-19:

Business support and advice:

Need help?

We provide support to farmers and farm business in times of hardship. Find out more at the FarmHub website. It connects Australian farmers to a range of helpful services and support.

Read about support for the commercial fishery industry.

Read more

Media releases:

Meeting summaries:

Last reviewed: 14 January 2021
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