Drought Crisis Hits Australian Farms

Drought Crisis Hits Australian Farms
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Sheep graze the stubble of a drought-affected wheat crop near West Wyalong, 310 miles (500 kilometers) west of Sydney, Australia, on October 17, 2007.

Poor grain crops have led to soaring prices for livestock feed, forcing many farmers to sell their animals at a loss. Despite of billions in aid from the government, the drought has become a financial disaster for farmers.

The catastrophe has also taken a hit on farmers' mental well-being. Suicide rates in rural Australia are on the upswing. Experts point to isolation, financial distress and lack of psychological services as contributing factors.

Rod Chalmers, a farmer in Wakool, in the state of New South Wales, said idle time contributes to the stress.

We have no irrigation water this year, so there is nothing to do, he said. These are active workers who want to be productive. That makes a lot of people really unhappy.

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—Photograph by Mick Tsikas/Reuters
 
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