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U.N. calls on nations to adopt drought policies

Published: Friday, July 3 2015 8:11 p.m. MDT

In this photo from Aug. 1, 2012, Todd Eggerling, of Martell, Neb., points to some of his cattle grazing on thin pasture. Due to the summer's record drought and heat his cattle operation is in bad shape. Eggerling would normally graze his 100 head of cattle through September, but the drought has left his pastureland barren. He's begun using hay he had planned to set aside for next year's cattle, and is facing the reality that he will have to sell the cattle for slaughter early at a loss.  (Nati Harnik, Associated Press) In this photo from Aug. 1, 2012, Todd Eggerling, of Martell, Neb., points to some of his cattle grazing on thin pasture. Due to the summer's record drought and heat his cattle operation is in bad shape. Eggerling would normally graze his 100 head of cattle through September, but the drought has left his pastureland barren. He's begun using hay he had planned to set aside for next year's cattle, and is facing the reality that he will have to sell the cattle for slaughter early at a loss. (Nati Harnik, Associated Press)

GENEVA — The world urgently need to adopt drought-management policies as farmers from Africa to India struggle with lack of rainfall and the United States endures the worst drought it has experienced in decades, top officials with the U.N. weather agency said Tuesday.

The World Meteorological Organization says the U.S. drought and its ripple effects on global food markets show the need for policies with more water conservation and less consumption. It is summoning ministers and other high-level officials to a March meeting in Geneva where it will call for systematic measures toward less water consumption and more conservation.

U.S. farmers have experienced one of their worst growing seasons in memory. The annual corn harvest, for example, is much farther along than it ordinarily would be and expected to produce the least amount of corn since 2006 — despite the most acres of corn planted in more than 70 years — due to unusual triple-digit summer temperatures that disrupted pollination and a severe drought particularly in the middle of the country.

This photo taken Friday, June 15, 2012 shows the water levels of Lake Corpus Christi near Mathis, Texas. Lake levels at Lake Corpus Christi have dropped considerably in just the last few month that the city of Corpsu Christi is think of mandatory water conservation restrictions which could be in place by mid-September unless Corpus Christi's lakes receive rain.  (Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Todd Yates, Associated Press) This photo taken Friday, June 15, 2012 shows the water levels of Lake Corpus Christi near Mathis, Texas. Lake levels at Lake Corpus Christi have dropped considerably in just the last few month that the city of Corpsu Christi is think of mandatory water conservation restrictions which could be in place by mid-September unless Corpus Christi's lakes receive rain. (Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Todd Yates, Associated Press)

"Climate change is projected to increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of droughts, with impacts on many sectors, in particular food, water, health and energy," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said. "We need to move away from a piecemeal, crisis-driven approach and develop integrated risk-based national drought policies."

Mannava V.K. Sivakumar, director of WMO's climate prediction and adaptation branch, says only Australia has a national policy toward drought and the advantage of a policy — rather than a disaster management, which some countries have — is that national action is required no matter who is in political power.

Australia's government says its 2004 policy is no longer sufficient to deal with climate change, however, and over the past two years it has tried a pilot program in western parts of the country aimed at shifting from a crisis-oriented approach to risk management.

Farmer Tom Albaugh holds drought impacted ears of corn in a field on his farm, Monday, Aug. 20, 2012, in Ankeny, Iowa. Albaugh expects to be harvesting by the middle of September, ahead of the usual end of September or early October schedule. The harvest is three to four weeks ahead of schedule in most of the corn belt because an unusually warm spring allowed farmers to plant earlier.   (Charlie Neibergall, Associated Press) Farmer Tom Albaugh holds drought impacted ears of corn in a field on his farm, Monday, Aug. 20, 2012, in Ankeny, Iowa. Albaugh expects to be harvesting by the middle of September, ahead of the usual end of September or early October schedule. The harvest is three to four weeks ahead of schedule in most of the corn belt because an unusually warm spring allowed farmers to plant earlier. (Charlie Neibergall, Associated Press)

Sivakumar said the agency is also encouraging more continuing support especially for "the poorest of the poor," small farmers whose daily wages determine whether they and their families will eat on any given day.

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