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Australia announces extra aid for farmers as PM admits, ‘We are the land of droughts’

Key Points
  • The eastern part of Australia is said to be suffering its worst drought since 1965.
  • Farmers are to get an additional two part payment to help mitigate extra costs and losses.
  • Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull has said Australians must realize it is the “land of drought and flooding rains.”
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during Question Time in House of Representatives at Parliament House on December 5, 2017, in Canberra, Australia.
Michael Masters | Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said his country must realize it is the "land of drought and flooding rains" after he promised more cash to struggling farmers.

Farmers affected by a sustained lack of rain are to receive an additional one-off payment of 12,000 Australian dollars ($8,870) as they battle with failing crops and spiralling feed costs. The total drought relief package from the federal government will cost taxpayers 576 million Australian dollars.

The state government of New South Wales has already promised to pay out more than 1 billion Australian dollars to the rural community.

Turnbull told a local radio station Monday that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology was calling the dry weather "the worst drought in eastern Australia since 1965."

The Australian leader then predicted the problems currently affecting the country's farming community should be expected in future.

"What we have to do is recognize we are the land of droughts and flooding rains. We know that," said Turnbull, before adding that the dry conditions appeared to be occurring on a more regular basis.

"That's part of the climate, it seems to be becoming more so and what we need is to ensure we provide every support to enable farmers to be resilient and respond to that climate."

Hereford Grass fed beef cattle heifers in drought in rural NSW Australia waiting for feed.
Searsie | iStock | Getty Images

Drought in Australia is defined by the bureau as "rainfall over a three-month period being in the lowest decile of what has been recorded for that region."

Currently more than 99 percent of New South Wales is experiencing drought conditions, with parts of neighboring Queensland suffering up to seven years below-average rainfall. Parts of Victoria and South Australia are also managing extreme dry weather.

The hot weather in Australia has continued through autumn and into the southern hemisphere's winter in 2018. The temperature in Sydney topped 24.7 degrees Celsius over two days in July for the first time since records began.

Continued dry weather has forced farmers to buy expensive feed for their livestock, and from increasingly remote locations. According to ABC News, feed growers are struggling to keep up with demand and prices for hay have tripled.

Some farmers have resorted to orange peels and watermelons to feed cattle.

The National Farmers' Federation (NFF) for Australia said in a statement that when you add on the cost of freighting the feed from thousands of miles away, the difficulty of feeding animals has become acute.

"Sourcing fodder is becoming more difficult, farmers are having to make more tough decisions about whether to feed or sell livestock, including breeding stock. Water supplies are also running out," it said.

Agribusiness banker Rabobank has said it will not apply penalty rates on loans that have defaulted due to the drought.