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Mikkel Pates

Mikkel Pates, reporter/columnist for Agweek magazine of Grand Forks, reports from Fargo, N.D., about agriculture in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

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Farmers Union: Pope thinks highly of family farmers

Mark Watne, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, says a visit with Pope Francis on March 25 was a reminder that the Vatican thinks “family farms are the best tools for food security, and men and women are the center of God’s creation and are the custodians of the environment.”

State Farmers Union presidents to meet with Pope Francis

Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana Farmers Union presidents will meet with Pope Francis on Wednesday as part of faith-based farming program.

ITC thumps challenge to U.S.-Mexico sugar pact

The U.S. International Trade Commission on March 19 upheld agreements between the U.S. and Mexican governments designed to stop subsidized Mexican sugar from being dumped on the U.S. market.


Mixed reactions to ND House passage of anti-corporate exemptions

The North Dakota House Agriculture Committee on March 16 passed new exemptions for dairy and swine for the anti-corporate farming bill. The bill goes back to the Senate to consider amendments passed in the House version.


Johnsons get federal prison in crop insurance fraud case

Potato farming brothers Aaron Johnson of Northwood, N.D., and Derek Johnson of Vancouver, British Columbia, will spend time in federal prison in the Federal Prison Camp in Duluth, Minn., and are jointly responsible for restitution of nearly $1 million because of crop insurance fraud.

ND House ag panel gives anti-corporate bill do-pass

North Dakota’s House Agriculture Committee on March 6 voted 8-5 to recommend a do-pass on a bill that would create exemptions for dairy and swine in the state anti-corporate farming law.

ND Senate Ag Committee hears testimony on state check-off increase

The North Dakota Senate Agriculture Committee on March 6 heard testimony on whether a “North Dakota dollar” should be added to what beef producers pay to a check-off — doubling an amount already collected under a federal check-off.

ND House Ag Committee hears testimony on anti-corporate bill

North Dakota’s House Agriculture Committee heard more than eight hours of testimony March 5 on a bill that would relax the state’s anti-corporate farming law to allow corporations to own swine and dairy operations. Some think the bill opens the door to corporate ownership of beef feedlots above the current size cap of 640 acres, or one square mile.

Johnson brothers ask for leniency in insurance fraud sentencing

FARGO, N.D. -- Two North Dakota farming brothers convicted of crop insurance fraud are asking a federal judge for leniency based on character and family responsibilities, while federal lawyers are asking for the maximum sentences.

SD Legislature passes raw milk bill; governor expected to sign

South Dakota raw milk producers can continue to sell milk directly to customers, but under strict rules to protect the reputation of the larger commercial dairy industry.


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Not much good news in 2015

Hope for improvements in March, April


Beyond the boom and bust cycle

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” It’s a world-famous epigram that is said to have been coined by French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in the 1800s. I think of that saying as I hear experts talk in hushed tones about the times we’re heading into.


Measure 5 sets back ag-hunter relations

I took about a week off in late October this year to go pheasant hunting with Dick Unkenholz, a retired former United Methodist pastor. Dick baptized our two children in the late 1980s.


STB a toothless tiger

Officials aren’t going to do much to make the trains run on time to alleviate the 2014 ag rail problems. Farmers and elevators need to prepare to suffer through 2015 and maybe 2016 and beyond.


Lessons from California prove eye-opening

A few weeks ago, I used some time off from covering Upper Great Plains agriculture for Agweek to attend a two-day seminar focusing on the “Salad Bowl of the World” in Salinas, Calif.


Support for farming

I’d like to remind farmers that they still have a lot of fans.


Battling agriculture's critics

Two recent experiences have left me shaking and scratching my head about how farmers battle critics and phantoms.


The story of Scotty, a buffalo pioneer

Recently I attended “Buffalo King,” a 2013 documentary movie on the life of James “Scotty” Philip, at the Fargo Film Festival.


Faith and business

“At AEFS we are a family of believers. We believe in God, we believe in America, we believe in the family farm and we believe in the Jerusalem artichoke.” — American Energy Farming Systems corporate philosophy.


Back to the '80s

Will farmers wake up and react to weed resistance?