Ward County Farmers mulling next move to end cloud seeding

MINOT, N.D. – UPDATE: The debate continues in Ward County over weather modification.

A group of County farmers who say the program has hindered rainfall are now looking for their next move to stop the program, following a failed attempt from the county commissioners.

But not everyone thinks the program is at fault.

A group of Ward County farmers came before the County Commission again, over concerns of the continued 'cloud seeding' program.

How it works is planes inject chemicals into storm clouds to break up hail and prevent crop damage, but these farmers, including Nathan Smith, say the planes actually divert much-needed rainfall away from their pastures.

“Everybody here is continually raising more row crops, more corn, more soybeans, and we need more rainfall, and I'm not blaming them for the drought, but it's time to stop. This is a waste of taxpayer money,” said Smith.

Hank Bodmer, the chairperson for the county's Weather Modification Board, said there's no proof the practice of 'cloud seeding' reduces rainfall.

The County Commission tried unsuccessfully to halt the program last month.

Pat Murphy, another member of the Weather Mod board, resigned following the Commissioner's actions.

State's Attorney Roza Larson told the commissioners they had committed to supporting the program through 2020.

The only ways they could dissolve it were if farmers circulated a petition, or if the county's electors petitioned to send the matter to the ballot box.

Even then, it may be too late for Smith and other farmers as they nervously watch their bottom line.

“It is do or die. Our soybeans need it bad. We get an inch of rain, we're back in the hunt. We don't, I think yields are gonna drop dramatically,” said Smith.

Smith said the farmers who attended the meeting will figure out their plan of action in the next few days.

The weather modification plans will continue flying through the end of August.


ORIGINAL STORY: Farmers in Ward County who have criticized a controversial weather modification program for worsening this year’s drought are considering their next move, following a failed attempt from the Ward County Commissioners to halt the program for the rest of the year.

Through the weather modification program, planes ‘seed’ chemicals in clouds in an effort to break up hail and prevent crop damage. Some farmers, however, argue the planes have diverted much-need rainfall away from their pastures.

The commissioners asked the state’s Atmospheric Resource Board last month to stop the program, but the board informed the commissioners that only the county’s Weather Modification Board has the authority to stop flying.

Ward County State’s Attorney Roza Larson told the Commissioners Tuesday they voted to fund the Weather Modification Board through 2020. She said if farmers wanted the county to dissolve the program, they would have to circulate a petition with at least 51 percent of eligible electors, or if 20 percent of the electors petitioned the commissioners to send the matter to the ballot box for a vote.

“Everybody here is continually raising more row crops, more corn, more soybeans, and we need more rainfall, and I’m not blaming them for the drought, but it’s time to stop. This is a waste of taxpayer money,” said Nathan Smith, a Ward County farmer.

Pat Murphy, who said he supported the cloud seeding program, resigned from the county’s Weather Modification Board last month, following the commissioners’ attempt to stop it. The commissioners accepted his resignation Tuesday.

Weather Modification Board chairperson Hank Bodmer said there is no evidence that cloud seeding reduces rainfall, and the program will run through Aug. 31.

We will have more on the Evening Report.