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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 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.


NASS releases first weekly weather report of the cropping season

It’s early, but seems like it’s about time to start planting. Seeding is just getting started in Agweek country, as crop and livestock producers in most areas are looking for moisture, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service first weekly report of the season on April 6.


Canada discontinues railroad penalties; US grain cars caught up

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., says he's pleased the Canadian government has decided to discontinue its penalties for Class I railroads in Canada if they fail to move minimum weekly grain volumes, but he says they could resume any time.


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.

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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.