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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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NDSU scientists map genes of the common bean

Several North Dakota State University scientists are close to the center of a national project that completed the sequence of the common bean genome.


Ag shuttle service declines to April levels

Agricultural shipping on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway hit a downturn for shuttle train service in the region last week, but there were fewer late single cars.


China suspends dried distillers grain imports

If the Chinese increase testing of an unapproved biotech trait in corn, farmers in the Upper Great Plains that sell significant amounts of corn and dried distillers grain (DDG) products there will get hit in the pocketbook.

American Crystal ties late processing record

American Crystal Sugar Co. finished slicing beets June 7 at its Hillsboro, N.D., plant — equaling a record-late season held by five other previous processing years, says Brian Ingulsrud, vice president for agriculture. The company had previously predicted surpassing its record, finishing June 8.

Sugar growers work toward sustainability

Casey Hoverson is proud of his family’s production of sugar beets, potatoes and rotational crops, and he’s happy to tell the world about it.


American Crystal nears late-processing record

American Crystal Sugar Co. could match or set a new record for late-running processing, with its Hillsboro, N.D., factory expected to continue slicing 2013 crop through June 8.


Family steps up after death of sheep industry giant

Dion Van Well towered over the sheep industry in the Upper Midwest like few do. He was dubbed the “Lion of the Lambs,” in a 2009 Agweek story, and his family vows to continue his legacy. Van Well, 47, died in his sleep of heart failure on Jan. 5 while on a pheasant hunting trip with buddies near Hoven, S.D.


RMA declines requests for planting deadline extension

The Risk Management Agency has declined requests from Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, and U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp to delay the planting date for corn, grain and silage from May 25 to May 31.

Slow planting prompts insurance deadline extension requests

With a wet, late planting season, farmers are approaching planting deadlines for full crop insurance compensation on various crops. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to consider delaying the final crop insurance planting deadline for corn this year and other crops in future years.


Sunflower prospects rise

Sunflower industry officials expect to see more acres than earlier anticipated in central North Dakota and east-central South Dakota — especially now, with delayed planting of small grains and canola.


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100 years of history

FARGO, N.D. — My congratulations to the North Dakota Grain Dealers Association, which celebrated its 100th annual convention in January.


A prediction on American Crystal’s lockout situation

FARGO, N.D. — I’ve often been asked what I think the future of the labor lockout between American Crystal Sugar Co. and the Bakery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union locals. So here’s what I think.

Bees and a book

FARGO N.D. — Honeybees are important — certainly to my family. I occasionally had a firsthand experience with a commercial honeybee business that was run by my mother’s first cousin, Jim Folsland, in Oldham, S.D., in Kingsbury County.

Accidents happen when people get in a hurry

FARGO, N.D. — May 5, I drove from Fargo, N.D., to Bismarck, N.D., to cover a court hearing the next morning. It was a beautiful evening, but it was clear that the fields were too wet for this time of year. Almost none of the field work had been done. I counted two planting rigs operating across that 180-mile stretch. I think there was one outfit planting potatoes.

Does tiling cut flooding?

FARGO, N.D. — My wife and I are contemplating another season of flood fighting in south Fargo, N.D. We’ve helped fill sandbags each year for the past two years but never had to place them around our property. In 2009, I helped a family friend put 30,000 of them around his Moorhead, Minn., house. Lloyd is one of the greatest of the Greatest Generation, in my book, and appreciated the help. He’ll get it again this year if he needs it.

New year guesses can entertain, guide us

FARGO, N.D. — My wife, Barb, and I have an annual New Year’s ritual — Our Predictions.

What does humane production mean?

FARGO, N.D. — I always am fascinated with recommendations from groups like the Humane Society of the United States.

Candidates tout ag connections

FARGO, N.D. — Agriculture = good. If you don’t believe it, look at the year’s crop of political ads. This year, I took special notice of ads by Brad Crabtree, candidate for the North Dakota Public Service Commission.

Agriculture needs its honest info brokers

FARGO, N.D. — Historically, ethics has been an important thing in journalism. I hope ethics isn’t becoming passe in the “today’s economy.”

‘Nutrient density’ and other dense ideas

FARGO, N.D. — I read with interest a July 8 release from Organic Trade Association, which criticizes a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture draft Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2010. The OTA complains that the guidelines say there is limited research on “nutrient density” comparisons between organic and conventionally raised food.