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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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Berg: $37 payment to American Crystal growers is ‘miserable’

Most American Crystal Sugar Co. farmers will lose money on the 2014 crop at current price projections, but company officials say things will improve next year. David Berg, president and CEO for the Moorhead, Minn.-based co-op, told attendees at the company’s annual meeting Dec. 4 in Fargo that the $37 payment projection is “miserable.”


State committee says Benda solely responsible for SD EB-5 scandal

A new state report says Richard Benda alone was responsible for the investment-visa scandal that helped finance a failed Aberdeen, S.D., beef processing plant and other agricultural projects.

Opening statements begin in federal insurance fraud case

Jurors in a federal crop insurance fraud trial in Fargo, N.D., were alerted that they’ll have to make a judgment on the credibility of a former hired hand in a case against farming brothers Aaron and Derek Johnson of Northwood, N.D.

Jury seated in Johnsons spud insurance case

FARGO, N.D. - The federal crop insurance fraud case against Aaron Scott Johnson, his brother Derek Johnson and their Johnson Potato Co. of Northwood, N.D., started Dec. 1 in Fargo, but the first day was entirely taken up by the jury selection process.

Ag groups want to end port disruptions

West Coast port disruptions are becoming a dire situation for U.S. agriculture. A coalition of 61 ag groups, including several with members in Minnesota and the Dakotas, have appealed to President Barack Obama to take decisive action to override a labor impasse.

NDSU official: RFS delay 'bad news'

An Environmental Protection Agency decision to delay setting Renewable Fuels Standard targets until February 2015 is bad news for the industry because it creates uncertainty for the ethanol and biodiesel markets.

Ag groups act to limit conservation groups

North Dakota agricultural groups are putting the pressure on officials to eject conservation advocate organizations as contract helpers in U.S. Department of Agriculture offices that regulate wetland compliance issues.

No big spike in rustling cases

A recent report of suspected cattle rustling in the Napoleon, N.D., area is startling, but fairly rare, officials say.

Expect slow ag machinery sales

The farm equipment and implement business is bracing for a correction in corn- and soybean-dependent areas of the region. Dealers expect to be buoyed by livestock-related diversification, turf and construction areas in 2015.

Elevators: prices slow train demand

Grain elevators in the region are complaining less about railroads falling behind on freight delivery schedules, in part because farmers aren’t anxious to sell grain at recent lower prices.

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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.

New year guesses can entertain, guide us

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