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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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SD Attorney General rules Anderson Seed is civil, not criminal case

An investigator for the South Dakota Attorney General’s office has told farmers and elevator operators owed money in the Anderson Seed Inc. insolvency that the case is civil, and criminal charges won’t be filed against Ron and Stephanie Anderson and their Mentor, Minn.-based sunflower processing company.

NDSU grows with bean breeding industry

North Dakota State University’s dry edible bean breeding program began in 1980 and is one of the nation’s largest programs on the topic.


NDSU scientists map genes of the common bean

Several North Dakota State University scientists are close to the center of a national project that completed the sequence of the common bean genome.


Ag shuttle service declines to April levels

Agricultural shipping on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway hit a downturn for shuttle train service in the region last week, but there were fewer late single cars.


China suspends dried distillers grain imports

If the Chinese increase testing of an unapproved biotech trait in corn, farmers in the Upper Great Plains that sell significant amounts of corn and dried distillers grain (DDG) products there will get hit in the pocketbook.

American Crystal ties late processing record

American Crystal Sugar Co. finished slicing beets June 7 at its Hillsboro, N.D., plant — equaling a record-late season held by five other previous processing years, says Brian Ingulsrud, vice president for agriculture. The company had previously predicted surpassing its record, finishing June 8.

Sugar growers work toward sustainability

Casey Hoverson is proud of his family’s production of sugar beets, potatoes and rotational crops, and he’s happy to tell the world about it.


American Crystal nears late-processing record

American Crystal Sugar Co. could match or set a new record for late-running processing, with its Hillsboro, N.D., factory expected to continue slicing 2013 crop through June 8.


Family steps up after death of sheep industry giant

Dion Van Well towered over the sheep industry in the Upper Midwest like few do. He was dubbed the “Lion of the Lambs,” in a 2009 Agweek story, and his family vows to continue his legacy. Van Well, 47, died in his sleep of heart failure on Jan. 5 while on a pheasant hunting trip with buddies near Hoven, S.D.


RMA declines requests for planting deadline extension

The Risk Management Agency has declined requests from Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, and U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp to delay the planting date for corn, grain and silage from May 25 to May 31.

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‘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.


Can mankind end hunger?

FARGO, N.D. — I recently received my copy of “Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty.” Every person connected to the food industry should read it.

Ag At-Large: Seeding education

FARGO, N.D. — I recently spent time with Bob Majkrzak, president and chief executive officer of Red River Commodities, as he talked about his company’s role in a confection sunflower industry that has turned summersaults to remain competitive in the past 20 years.

AG AT-LARGE: Greenhouse gas rules should consider science

MINNEAPOLIS — I was walking through the airport terminal in Minneapolis, on the way home from a North American Agricultural Journalists annual meeting in Washington. My head was spinning with information about climate change and carbon footprints for agriculture.