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Published May 25, 2009, 12:00 AM

Recent rain gives farmers reason to hope

Following an abnormally cold spring that saw a late thaw after a severely cold winter, farmers in southwestern North Dakota had finally gotten into their fields over the last few weeks.

Following an abnormally cold spring that saw a late thaw after a severely cold winter, farmers in southwestern North Dakota had finally gotten into their fields over the last few weeks.

And before Saturday and Sunday there was some fear in the area that the record snowfalls this winter would go to waste in the face high temperatures sucking precious moisture out of the ground.

But after a weekend of between one and a half to two inches of rain or more falling on parts of the southwest region, attitudes have turned from worry to hope.

“With the cold and some of the freezing that we’ve had, it was taking a toll on the grass a little bit and the crops, because there was not enough warmth,” said Derrick Dukart, who farms and ranches near Manning. “We’ve had some warm days, now we’ve had some moisture, so the outlook is 110 percent better than it was last year.”

Lee Pavlicek, who farms northeast of Dickinson, said he’s still getting his crop into the ground after a late start, but he was worried last week that the soil would be too dry without a quick shower or two.

“It was actually getting dry, very dry on top,” Pavlicek said. “I think deeper down we have a little more moisture, but the top was actually getting really dry and you can tell after the rain there isn’t a lot of water standing. So you can tell it was getting dry.”

Seeds won’t germinate in dryer soils, Pavlicek said. So the rain this past weekend gives farmers a reason to be optimistic, especially following last year’s drought.

Matt Biel, who farms near Lefor, said the rain the area got this weekend should give crops the jumpstart necessary at the beginning of the growing season. That extra help is particularly important this year because of the late start.

However, farmers aren’t the only ones likely to appreciate the rainfall, Biel said, adding there are plenty of ranchers who will be happy to see the grass in their pastures and hay fields shooting out of ground.

“I think we’ve had more rain in May then we had the whole growing season last year,” Biel said. “Looks like we’re going to have a decent hay crop also, which a lot of guys are going to need after the shortages of last year.”

Dukart said without a good hay year many ranchers who may have had enough hay in reserve to get them through last winter would likely have had to think seriously about downsizing their herds. Several ranchers were forced to do so last year because of the drought.

In the end, agriculture really comes down to the one thing producers can’t control, Pavlicek said.

“One thing that you cannot buy is rain,” Pavlicek said. “You can buy all your other inputs to put in that crop. You can buy anything you want to put in that crop, but you can’t buy that rain. That is so critical and so important that we have that.”

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