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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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Senate Ag Committee reauthorizes grain standards act with Heitkamp amendment

he U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee on May 21 passed the U.S. Grains Standards Act Reauthorization. U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., included an amendment that could lead to better access to Canadian wheat and barley markets for U.S. farmers near the border.

California company sets launch parties in Dakotas

Farmers Business Network, a California-based, farmer-to-farmer agronomic information network, will hold launch parties in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Fargo, N.D., in early June, a new link between Silicon Valley and the I-29 corridor in the eastern Dakotas.

Study estimates bird flu costs in Minnesota at $310 million

The University of Minnesota Extension Service says the bird flu outbreaks since March 4 have cost the state's turkey and poultry industries nearly $310 million in outstate Minnesota.

Judge seeks input on use of unclaimed funds in Native American land discrimination suit settlement

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has set a June 29 hearing to consider what to do with $380 million in unclaimed funds generated in a discrimination case against the U.S. Department of Agriculture by Native Americans.

STB sets ag rail rate hearings

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board will hold two hearings in Washington, D.C., this summer to address issues with railroad grain transportation.

Cold snap not yet fatal for crops

Cold temperatures in the past three days have threatened early-emerging crops in the Dakotas and Minnesota, but there are no widespread reports of freeze damage.

Dispatches from DC: Ag journalism in the nation’s capital

Today, we’ll hear from numerous top national figures, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Robert Johansson, USDA chief economist, as well as top trade officials. Clint Raine of the National Corn Growers Association, will talk about the use of drones in agriculture.


ND Legislature passes bill to fund ag litigation against federal environmental regulations

The North Dakota Legislature has passed the agricultural piece of a two-part legislative effort, designed to create a fund to help legally protect the state's two largest industries -- agriculture and energy -- from federal environmental regulations.

Aaron Johnson files appeal notice in crop insurance fraud conviction

Both of the potato-growing brothers from Northwood, N.D., convicted of federal crop insurance fraud have submitted to the Cass County Jail in Fargo and are waiting to be transferred to a federal prison, probably in Duluth, Minn.


Farmers in the Upper Midwest need rain

The most recent NASS weather report shows the four-state area is below the five-year average for rainfall accumulation.


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Will beef always be for dinner?

FARGO, N.D. — In the 1980s, the Wendy’s restaurant chain asked a memorable question, “Where’s the Beef?” Thirty years later, a small minority of Americans are asking a different question, with a twist — “Why is there beef?”


Fall poetry in farm country

Fall is upon us. It seems hard to believe, but the row crop season harvest could be over before the end of October, depending on whether we start getting badly needed rain. Forgive me for not writing a “drought of 2013” story until we know whether it’s rained before freeze-up.


Crop insurance

How many drought years will test program limits?


What's real and what's obscene?

FARGO, N.D. — The “pink slime” controversy brings to mind my days growing up, and my re-education about food at Brookings (S.D.) Middle School. It was there in the late 1960s and early 1970s that I first ate school lunch.

Is that pop champagne?

FARGO, N.D. — If farmers are the eternal optimists, then they may have more to be optimistic in 2012 than ever before. And more to be careful about, I would think.


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.