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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Farmers and ranchers coping with extreme drought in western North Dakota are questioning whether a state program that’s supposed to increase rainfall could be making their problems worse.

Hettinger County residents are circulating a petition that seeks to end the North Dakota Cloud Modification Project, The Bismarck Tribune reported. Under the program, pilots seed clouds with silver iodide and dry ice to increase precipitation.

“Our goal is to end weather modification in North Dakota all together,” said Jamie Kouba, a farmer. “It’s a waste of taxpayer dollars and it’s causing harm to the citizens.”

Hettinger County stopped participating in the program in 1988 after residents voted against it, but residents say they believe cloud seeding is still having an effect on their rainfall because neighboring Bowman County still participates in the program.

Six counties — Bowman, Burke, McKenzie, Mountrail, Ward and Williams — still participate in the program. The Ward County Commission recently voted to halt cloud seeding. However, state’s attorney Roza Larson said the Ward County Weather Modification Board has the authority to decide whether to abide to the vote.

Darin Langerud is director of the North Dakota Atmospheric Resource Boar, which manages the program. He said studies show cloud seeding has suppressed hail by 45 percent and increased rainfall by 5 to 10 percent.

“We’re not making it rain, we’re working around the margins of clouds to help increase rainfall a little bit,” Langerud said.

Gov. Doug Burgum has directed State Engineer Garland Erbele to compile research on weather modification and present his findings at the State Water Commission meeting scheduled for Aug. 23.

“There certainly is a lot of emotion around this topic,” Burgum said.

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