Gallery: Pictures show dire situation for Australian farms hit by drought

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Gallery: Pictures show dire situation for Australian farms hit by drought


(Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)
COONABARABRAN , NEW SOUTH WALES – JUNE 19: An aerial view of the cattle feeding operation on the property ‘Toorawandi’ owned by Coonabrabran farmer Ambrose Doolan and his wife Lisa. Both the couples children, Brett and Emily have returned home to work on the farm during the drought. The name of the property translates to ‘rows of standing stones’, which is presently an apt description of the bare dirt and stones that stretch as far as the can see. The New South Wales State government recently approved an emergency drought relief package of A$600m, of which at least A$250m is allocated for low interest loans to assist eligible farm businesses to recover. The package has been welcomed, though in the words of a local farmer ‘it barely touches the sides’. Now with the real prospect of a dry El-Nino weather pattern hitting the state in Spring, the longer term outlook for rain here is dire. June 19, 2018 in Coonabarabran, Australia. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)
COONABARABRAN , NEW SOUTH WALES – JUNE 19: An aerial view of the cattle feeding operation on the property ‘Toorawandi’ owned by Coonabrabran farmer Ambrose Doolan and his wife Lisa. Both the couples children, Brett and Emily have returned home to work on the farm during the drought. The name of the property translates to ‘rows of standing stones’, which is presently an apt description of the bare dirt and stones that stretch as far as the can see. The New South Wales State government recently approved an emergency drought relief package of A$600m, of which at least A$250m is allocated for low interest loans to assist eligible farm businesses to recover. The package has been welcomed, though in the words of a local farmer ‘it barely touches the sides’. Now with the real prospect of a dry El-Nino weather pattern hitting the state in Spring, the longer term outlook for rain here is dire. June 19, 2018 in Coonabarabran, Australia. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)
COONABARABRAN, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 19: In the Central Western region of New South Wales, Australia, farmers continue to battle a crippling drought which many locals are calling the worst since 1902. In Warrumbungle Shire, where sharp peaks fall away to once fertile farmland the small town of Coonabarabran is running out of water. The town dam is down to just 23% capacity, forcing residents to live with level six water restrictions. The New South Wales State government recently approved an emergency drought relief package of A$600m, of which at least A$250m is allocated for low interest loans to assist eligible farm businesses to recover. The package has been welcomed, though in the words of a local farmer “it barely touches the sides”. Now with the real prospect of a dry El-Nino weather pattern hitting the state in Spring, the longer term outlook for rain here is dire. June 19, 2018 in Coonabarabran, Australia.(Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)
COONABARABRAN , NEW SOUTH WALES – JUNE 19: An aerial view of the cattle feeding operation on the property ‘Toorawandi’ owned by Coonabrabran farmer Ambrose Doolan and his wife Lisa. Both the couples children, Brett and Emily have returned home to work on the farm during the drought. The name of the property translates to ‘rows of standing stones’, which is presently an apt description of the bare dirt and stones that stretch as far as the can see. The New South Wales State government recently approved an emergency drought relief package of A$600m, of which at least A$250m is allocated for low interest loans to assist eligible farm businesses to recover. The package has been welcomed, though in the words of a local farmer ‘it barely touches the sides’. Now with the real prospect of a dry El-Nino weather pattern hitting the state in Spring, the longer term outlook for rain here is dire. June 19, 2018 in Coonabarabran, Australia. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)
COONABARABRAN , NEW SOUTH WALES – JUNE 19: An aerial view of the cattle feeding operation on the property ‘Toorawandi’ owned by Coonabrabran farmer Ambrose Doolan and his wife Lisa. Both the couples children, Brett and Emily have returned home to work on the farm during the drought. The name of the property translates to ‘rows of standing stones’, which is presently an apt description of the bare dirt and stones that stretch as far as the can see. The New South Wales State government recently approved an emergency drought relief package of A$600m, of which at least A$250m is allocated for low interest loans to assist eligible farm businesses to recover. The package has been welcomed, though in the words of a local farmer ‘it barely touches the sides’. Now with the real prospect of a dry El-Nino weather pattern hitting the state in Spring, the longer term outlook for rain here is dire. June 19, 2018 in Coonabarabran, Australia. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)
COONABARABRAN , NEW SOUTH WALES – JUNE 19: An aerial view of the cattle feeding operation on the property ‘Toorawandi’ owned by Coonabrabran farmer Ambrose Doolan and his wife Lisa. Both the couples children, Brett and Emily have returned home to work on the farm during the drought. The name of the property translates to ‘rows of standing stones’, which is presently an apt description of the bare dirt and stones that stretch as far as the can see. The New South Wales State government recently approved an emergency drought relief package of A$600m, of which at least A$250m is allocated for low interest loans to assist eligible farm businesses to recover. The package has been welcomed, though in the words of a local farmer ‘it barely touches the sides’. Now with the real prospect of a dry El-Nino weather pattern hitting the state in Spring, the longer term outlook for rain here is dire. June 19, 2018 in Coonabarabran, Australia. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)
COONABARABRAN , NEW SOUTH WALES – JUNE 19: An aerial view of the cattle feeding operation on the property ‘Toorawandi’ owned by Coonabrabran farmer Ambrose Doolan and his wife Lisa. Both the couples children, Brett and Emily have returned home to work on the farm during the drought. The name of the property translates to ‘rows of standing stones’, which is presently an apt description of the bare dirt and stones that stretch as far as the can see. The New South Wales State government recently approved an emergency drought relief package of A$600m, of which at least A$250m is allocated for low interest loans to assist eligible farm businesses to recover. The package has been welcomed, though in the words of a local farmer ‘it barely touches the sides’. Now with the real prospect of a dry El-Nino weather pattern hitting the state in Spring, the longer term outlook for rain here is dire. June 19, 2018 in Coonabarabran, Australia. (Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)
Kangaroos can be seen standing near parked trucks loaded with hay on the outskirts of the western New South Wales town of White Cliffs, in Australia, August 18, 2018. Picture taken August 18, 2018. AAP/David Mariuz/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. AUSTRALIA OUT. NEW ZEALAND OUT.
Farmer Jack Hewitt keeps a pig away from his small flock of sheep as he feeds them in a drought-effected property located north of the town of Gunnedah in north-western New South Wales in Australia, June 8, 2018. Picture taken June 8, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray

An aerial view of the cattle feeding operation on the property ‘Toorawandi’ owned by Coonabrabran farmer Ambrose Doolan and his wife Lisa. Both the couples children, Brett and Emily have returned home to work on the farm during the drought.

The name of the property translates to ‘rows of standing stones’, which is presently an apt description of the bare dirt and stones that stretch as far as the can see.

Australia’s federal government announced on Sunday a A$1.8-billion ($1.32-billion) increase in funding for drought-afflicted farmers, with parts of the country’s east coast suffering the driest conditions in living memory.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pledged the support, in addition to the A$576 previously announced, during a visit to Forbes, a town in New South Wales, where farmers are facing drought conditions.

“I want to say to our farmers, we have your back,” Turnbull said. “We are constantly working to ensure that you get every support you can, and of course, let’s all pray for rain.”

The government said new funding would be made available for infrastructure projects, while tax breaks and low-interest loans of up to A$2 million for farmers were also part of the package.

Money would also be directed to the Bureau of Meteorology to develop more localised weather guides to help farmers plan.

The announcement comes two weeks after the federal government announced its last relief package and the state of New South Wales has also provided more than A$1 billion in assistance for farmers.

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The drought sweeping through large tracts of Australia is set to intensify over the next three months and is fuelling unseasonal winter bushfires, the leading meteorological agency and a fire official said on Thursday.

The Bureau of Meteorology forecast of more warm, dry weather suggests hopes for a reprieve from what farmers describe as the worst drought they have ever seen are unlikely to be realised before the Australian summer.

An unusually warm winter followed by what is expected to be a warmer-than-average spring “would mean intensification of the existing drought conditions across parts of eastern Australia”, the bureau’s outlook report said.

The report forecast below-average rainfall for large parts of Australia until November, the early part of the southern hemisphere summer.

Record-low rainfall in some regions and successive seasons of above-average temperatures have blighted vast tracts of Australia’s grazing and crop land.

All of New South Wales, the country’s most populous state that accounts for a quarter of Australia’s agricultural output by value, is officially in drought.

Firefighters there were battling 81 grass and bushfires on Thursday, 38 of which remained uncontained, authorities said. While none of the fires posed threats to people or property, it was still an unusual event for the Australian winter.

Almost 650 firefighters were working on the blazes, helped by more than 40 aircraft.

New South Wales Rural Fire Service Inspector Ben Shepherd said the drought had had a “significant effect” on the bushfires and was set to continue.

“There is no real positive outlook at the moment, especially when you do look at the three-month temperature and rainfall outlook,” Shepherd told Reuters.

“We need a significant amount of rain across New South Wales, not from just the drought aspect but also from the fire aspect,” he said.

Australia sent about 100 firefighters to California on Aug. 3 to help American authorities battle deadly wildfires sweeping the northwest of the United States, suggesting that authorities did not expect bushfires at home in the southern winter.

Shepherd said the size and number of fires in Australia were typical of late summer.

“We’re seeing fires on the far south coast (of New South Wales) that we wouldn’t typically see until sometimes as late as January or February, so what we’re seeing is very unusual,” he said.

Australia recorded its fifth-driest July on record last month. It was the driest January-to-July period in New South Wales since 1965 and marked seven consecutive months of below-average rainfall for the state.

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