Audio: Ward County Farmer Suggests Weather Modification Efforts Are Keeping Rain From Falling

Weather Modification Inc. Vice President Jim Sweeney holds a device used for cloud seeding before it is retrofitted on a plane to do weather-related work in Saudi Arabia. Jay Pickthorn / The Forum

Darin Langerud, director of the North Dakota Atmospheric Resource Board (the state agency in charge of cloud seeding programs in North Dakota), has said that weather modification efforts have suppressed crop-damaging hail by 45 percent and increased rain fall by 5 to 10 percent.

But that’s news to Ward County farmer Nathan Smith. “Every time these planes go up our storms dissipate,” he told me during a radio interview today on 970 WDAY AM and 93.1 FM.

He also doesn’t by the claims of hail suppression, pointing out that the cost of insuring crops against hail in Ward County is as much as 30 percent higher than in neighboring counties. “If [insurance companies] are doing their math and figuring out that it hails more in Ward County why are we paying someone on top of that to mitigate hail?” he said.

Smith also thinks the state’s weather modification efforts may have more to do with subsidizing aviators and airports than helping farmers. “The only push back I’ve gotten…is from people in aviation,” he told me.

The state’s Atmospheric Resource Board, which oversees cloud seeding programs, saw its expenditures on operations and salaries jump 20 percent from the 2013-15 biennium to the current budget cycle. Meanwhile the grants doled out by the agency jumped more than 50 percent.

“I want those airports to survive,” Smith added, “but this isn’t the way to do it.”

Here’s full audio of the interview. To get full podcasts of my radio shows, click here.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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