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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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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.

Johnson brothers trial underway

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.

Regional ag lender survey shows farm debt rising

It might not be a return to the 1980s credit crisis, but another ag lender survey shows a yellow light for “slow” in the region’s agricultural pace heading into 2015.


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.

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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.

Coffee and the meaning of life

FARGO, N.D. — My sympathies to the entire family of Helen M. Broten of Dazey, N.D. Helen died at age 93 June 16, leaving the families of three daughters and a son.

A weird few days

FARGO, N.D. — Recently, I ran into a fellow who alerted me to big things happening with genetically modified wheat. GM wheat made me think about cures for Fusarium head blight or “scab,” which was the scourge of wheat producers in the region in the mid-1990s — and that reminded me of how I acquired Bailey, the older of the two of my tri-color English setter dogs. Bailey turned 12 on April 21.

AG AT-LARGE: 10 years later

FARGO, N.D. — Jan. 3, I marked exactly 10 years with Agweek and the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald.

What’s normal, anyway?

FARGO, N.D. — And so it’s Christmas. Our “normal” cold finally has set in. I’ve always thought there’s nothing as reliable as winter in the Red River Valley in an otherwise changing world. I recently wrote our family Christmas letter — a mix of the darker, the brighter, but seldom calm days of our lives. Here’s the CliffsNotes-like summary:

AG-AT-LARGE: Health insurance is a looming ag issue

FARGO, N.D. — There are many agricultural policy issues out there, but the current health care-health insurance debate should be of particular interest to farmers and ranchers.

Death of a ‘Super Sage’

FARGO, N.D. — The great Norman Ernest Borlaug is dead. For those too young to remember, it was Borlaug, 93 at his death, who described himself only as a “temporary success” in fighting world hunger.