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. (Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment)

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. Queensland have also expanded the NSW border bubble to include the five local government areas. Read more about it here.

The TAS Government has announced from 21 September 2020, seasonal agricultural workers from interstate non-affected regions will be permitted to enter Tasmania for the purpose of participating in the 2020-21 Tasmanian agricultural harvest season. Read more about it here.

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, who has worked as the Senior Industry Engagement Officer on COVID-19 issues, was the vital liaison 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 will, be broadening the scope of industry engagement beyond COVID-19 issues.

Scope of work

Vikki Fischer is the central point of contact for industry groups. This includes 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. Together we will contribute to the economic prosperity of our nation.


We want to hear from you. You can help identify the critical issues for industry.


Essential services

To slow the COVID-19 outbreak, restrictions are in place on non-essential gatherings and businesses. Check restrictions on non-essential services.

Generally, if your business is not on that list, you can consider your business essential.

If you are unsure, contact state or territory health and agriculture authorities to confirm local arrangements.

Emerging issues

Vikki is working closely with the agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries to identify and progress key issues.

We will provide updates and information on emerging and trending issues.

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State and territory border restrictions

States and territories have announced a range of border measures in response to 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. These are rapidly evolving. 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 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 agreed to develop an Agriculture Workers Code. It will provide a nationally consistent approach to cross-border movement of essential agriculture workers during COVID-19.

Further work will be undertaken by agriculture ministers to inform a paper to be considered by National Cabinet at its next meeting (4 September 2020).

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.

These measures provide further job opportunities to support business and secure Australia’s food supply.


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

The Australian Government is extending the JobKeeper payment to those impacted by COVID-19 to 28 March 2021. The Coronavirus Supplement will be extended to 31 December 2020.

Both payments will have adjusted rates and people must meet eligibility requirements, some of which will be updated.
Read more about 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.

Meeting workforce principles

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

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.

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.

Higher Education Relief Package

This package supports workers displaced by the COVID-19 crisis. It helps them upskill or retrain for work in other areas, including agriculture. Find out more (Department of Education, Skills and Employment).

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).

My Skills website

The government has launched an improved and repurposed My Skills website. It focuses on online training for Australians looking to upskill during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new My Skills website offers more ways for Australians to improve their qualifications online. Check out the My Skills website.


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.

On 3 July, the Australian Government committed an additional $241.9 million to IFAM, to help keep international freight routes and flights operating.

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

Read more about air freight support and how to express your interest (Austrade).

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.

Industry advice notice 2020-41

Find out information that helps exporters of food and edible agricultural products to respond to requests from China for guarantees their exports are safe and free from COVID-19


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.

Fresh ideas

The agriculture industry has responded to the COVID-19 crisis with innovation and foresight.

In Tasmania, Ian Locke and the Tasmanian Fruit & Vegetable Export Facilitation Group has set up a project called The Other Side.

The project draws together strategies and resources to help horticulture producers to re-enter the export market post COVID-19.

The Other Side

Transcript DOCX [12 KB, 1 page]

Email us your stories of innovation in agriculture during COVID-19 to

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: 24 September 2020
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