Ward County Commissioners ask to halt cloud seeding following farmer criticism

MINOT, N.D. – Ward County Commissioners have voted to stall a long-running Ward County program that's supposed to protect crops from hail damage.

Reason being—farmers in the county say it's not working.

The Ward County Commissioners have voted to halt the Weather Modification program that modifies storm clouds, following blowback from county farmers who criticized the program for wasting money and worsening this year’s drought.

“We want this thing to be ceased immediately so we have a shot at getting some rainfall in this part of Ward County,” said Daniel Nezgoda, a crop duster for Agro-Tech, who said the program cost him business this year.

Cloud seeding has been used in Ward County for nearly 40 years now. How it works is a plane flies through the clouds and injects chemicals in the clouds that are supposed to break up hail and prevent crop damage. But now some farmers are saying this process is actually diverting rain away from pastures that badly need it.

“It's intended primarily to suppress hail, however Ward County has some of the highest hail insurance rates here in the state,” said Nezgoda.

“What are we getting for spending this money? And I'd like to point out the only facts in this whole situation are hail insurance rates in Ward County are higher than the surrounding counties,” said Roger Neshem, with the Water Resource Board.

As for the effectiveness of cloud seeding altogether, the jury's still out.

“If it's actually working to divert rain, theoretically it shouldn't. A big reason we may not be getting rain is just because we're not getting enough moisture in our area to form rain clouds,” said Kate Nagel, KMOT Meteorologist.

The program, which costs just under $190,000, nearly missed the 2017 budget.

The Commissioners will decide come budgeting time whether to include it for 2018.

We reached out to Hank Bodmer with the Ward County Weather Modification Authority.

Bodmer, a supporter of the program, said the commissioners made a decision based on junk science, and that there's no evidence that cloud seeding diverts rain away.

He also said if that were the case, the drought conditions would be worse in the northern parts of Ward County, instead of the south.