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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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Congress extends Section 179

The U.S. House on Dec. 3 passed a package of $42 billion in tax incentives, including Section 179, and the Senate passed it on Dec. 16. President Barack Obama was expected to sign it.


ND farmer makes farm bill decisions for the last time before handing operation over to sons

Al Juliuson is in the process of signing up for the Agricultural Act of 2014.


Easing of Cuba restrictions creates opportunity for ag

The Dec. 17 agreement between the U.S. and Cuba to normalize diplomatic relations between the two countries could lead to improved trade possibilities and important opportunities for U.S. Agriculture, Upper Great Plains officials said.

Transportation discussion provides few answers

What will the region’s agricultural railroad service look like in 2040? Will farmers in the Upper Great Plains continue to see trains two and three weeks late in the next 18 months?

Jury finds ND potato farmers guilty in crop insurance fraud case

A federal jury in Fargo found Northwood, N.D., potato farming brothers Aaron and Derek Johnson guilty of all felony counts of crop insurance fraud brought against them.

Jury gets Johnson crop insurance case

The credibility of a convicted felon will be key in a jury’s decision on whether Aaron and Derek Johnson, two third-generation potato farmers who operated out of Northwood, N.D., are guilty of intentionally destroying some of their crops in order to get unfair gains in crop insurance and federal disaster payments.

Minn-Dak sugar beet payment estimated at $36.86 per ton

Shareholders of Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative of Wahpeton, N.D., can expect a low beet payment at $36.86 per ton for their 2014 crop, with an additional $3 per ton contingency to be paid out if processing goes well.


Ag shipping discussion provides few answers

What will the region’s agricultural railroad service look like in 2040? Will farmers in the Upper Great Plains continue to see trains two and three weeks late in the next 18 months? These were questions asked but not answered Dec. 8 at the first day of a conference titled Post-Harvest Handling and Transportation for Agriculture Products: Issues and Alternatives. The event is sponsored by North Dakota State University and North Dakota’s two U.S. senators. It concludes Dec. 9.


Price swings good for alternative crops

With prospects for lack-luster returns for corn and soybeans in 2015, some farmers in the region are thinking alternative crops could fit into a new, profitable future.

American Crystal governs joint ventures

American Crystal Sugar Co.’s board isn’t outlawing joint ventures, but it is taking a step toward guaranteeing all entities always deliver beets — the basic ingredient for making sugar.

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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.