By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Rain is delaying the completion of harvesting in north-central Montana, but farmers don't seem to be complaining much.
"So far everybody that's been in has been pretty happy about it," said Rusty Cowan, FSA executive director in Liberty County. "Recognizing that the rain is stopping them from cutting, if it doesn't last long-term, everybody is welcoming the moisture."
Cowan said the winter wheat harvest is over in Liberty County, and the spring wheat harvest is more than half done.
Rain began falling Sunday and continued through Monday, dropping .74 inches of precipitation in Havre on Monday, according to the National Weather Service Web site. That is far below the record of 1.77 inches for the day set in 1965.
Rain fell in most of the state, including a record of 1.37 inches Monday in Great Falls. That beat a record of 1.10 inches in 1976, the Weather Service said.
Hill County Extension agent Joe Broesder said much of the harvest is done in Hill County. The winter wheat harvest is done, except for some green patches in the northern part of the county, and farmers were working on their spring wheat, he said.
"If we had a good week, it would pretty much be done," he said.
Area farmers say they wish they could finish their harvest, but the rain is welcome.
''We have a wonderful crop,'' said Hill County Commissioner Kathy Bessette, whose farm is 20 miles north of Havre. ''It's just that it's the middle of the harvest for us, but I hate to complain about rain."
Georgia Chinadle, who farms near Hingham with her husband, Allen, said their harvest is nearly complete, with only 30 to 50 acres of spring wheat left.
"We're very happy about the rain," she added.
National Weather Service hydrometeorologist Jerome Saucier of Great Falls said rain is likely through Thursday as a low pressure system moves in from the Gulf of Alaska, similar to the system that caused Sunday and Monday's storm.
"It's looking better towards Friday, and the weekend's drier and more into a normal flow," Saucier said.
The Weather Service predicts a 30 percent chance of rain Wednesday, with a 60 percent chance of rain Thursday. Temperatures are forecast with highs in the 60s to 70 and lows in the 40s.
The forecast for Friday through Monday calls for highs in the 60s to mid-70s and lows in the 40s to lower 50s, with no rain predicted.
The rain is helping soil conditions in the state. Last week 77 percent of topsoil in Montana was reported by the Montana Agricultural Statistics Service as being short to very short of moisture, with 82 percent of subsoil reported as short to very short of moisture.
Showers that fell last week improved conditions a bit, with 74 percent of topsoil reported as short to very short of moisture and 81 percent of subsoil short to very short. That report doesn't include rain on Sunday and Monday.
Broesder said the main problem the rain is causing is frustration for farmers trying to complete their harvest and move on to preparing for fall and winter.
"The biggest problem is the mental games it's playing with people," he said.
Some problems could arise if the harvest is delayed long, he said. One is that if grain that was knocked from the heads sprouts, it could give insects a bridge to infest winter wheat when it sprouts.
Another is that if the harvest of wheat damaged by sawflies is delayed, its harvest could be more difficult as more falls to the ground and the weather compacts the wheat onto the ground.
The delay also could prevent harvesting until frost damages the wheat.
"Frost would not be a good thing," Cowan said.
Saucier said frost is unlikely in the next week. The cloud cover will probably keep temperatures from dropping much during the night, he said.
On the Net: National Weather Service: www.wrh.noaa.gov/Greatfalls/
Montana Agricultural Statistics Service: www.nass.usda.gov/mt/
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.