Australia's most populous state entirely in drought

Heidi Taylor 7 kicks up dust on the family farm outside Coonabarabran in New South Wales

Much of southeastern Australia is struggling with drought but conditions in New South Wales are the driest and most widespread since 1965.

A crippling drought is ravaging vast tracts of Australia's pastoral heartland, decimating herds and putting desperate farmers under intense financial and emotional strain, with little relief in sight.

Cattle and sheep farmer Robert Lee says climate change is behind the drought crisis.

Some exhausted graziers spend hours each day hand-feeding their stock because the ground is too dry for grass to grow.

4 On Wednesday, authorities in New South Wales announced that the most populous state in the country, which contributes to about a quarter of Australia's agriculture output, is now entirely in drought.

Less than 10 millimetres was recorded in the western, northwest and central areas of NSW over the past month and drier-than-normal conditions are forecast for the next three months across the majority of the state. Others have been forced to shoot starving cattle.

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Primary industries minister Niall Blair said farmers were enduring one of the driest winters on record.

The US will subsidise farmers and buy unsold crops, among other measures; farmers growing soybeans, sorghum and wheat will get the most aid.

The federal and state governments have provided A$576m - $430 million - in emergency funding, according to the BBC. But it's not enough for many farmers. The state governments would also be asked to submit reports on drought condition, so that relevant relief measures can be implemented. "We recognise that. It's a very volatile and often capricious climate and Australian farmers are resilient, they plan for drought, they are good managers but it can become really overwhelming", said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The federal and NSW state governments are providing more than A$1.5 billion (S$1.52 billion) in drought relief packages, created to offset the cost of feed and freight, and increase access to mental health services for farmers feeling the strain.

New South Wales is suffering the worst drought in more than 50 years, with farmers among the hardest hit.

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