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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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Corn 'N' calculator released

Dave Franzen, a North Dakota State University Extension Service soil scientist, in late April completed a major recalculation of nitrogen recommendations for corn and posted it on his website.


Slow start to planting eases pressure on fertilizer deliveries

A sluggish northern planting pace, as well as prodding by congressional members and regulators, might mean farmers will keep pace on fertilizer deliveries for the 2014 crop. But some think there could still be spot shortages.


Manitoba spud growers still in talks with Simplot

Keystone Potato Producers Association based in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, has yet to complete negotiations with Simplot Canada II over a contract for 2014 production.

Goehring applauds BNSF track projects

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring on May 7 applauded BNSF Railway’s enhancement of its track infrastructure in North Dakota because it will help get grain to market.

SD county votes down 50,000-head feedlot

The Hand County (S.D.) Commission on May 6 voted 3-2 against the approval of a conditional use permit for a 50,000-head cattle feedlot. Northern Prime Feeders LLC has been working to build a lot on the Eagle Pass Ranch property in the Ree Heights, S.D., area, between Highmore and Miller.

BNSF says shuttles quickening, ag volume increases

John Miller, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway agricultural group vice president on May 2 said the company’s volumes had increased overall, ag volume has increased 9 percent from April and is now at the best level since October 2013.

USDA will wait to release specifics on farm bill commodity title

The U.S. Department of Agriculture isn’t likely to announce the fine points of the farm bill commodity title any time soon, two key congressional staffers said. Because the payment options are decoupled from planting decisions, the programs farmers choose won’t have bearing for 2014 planting. Bart Fischer, chief economist for the Republican-led U.S. House Agriculture Committee, and Matt Schertz, senior professional staff member, spoke to about 150 people in a two-hour “farm bill implementation seminar” in Fargo, N.D., on May 2.


ND PSC ponders legal action on slow rail service for ag

The North Dakota Public Service Commission is jumping into the fray about whether it can or should take legal action on behalf of farmers and grain elevators who allege railways are favoring oil transportation.


New processing plant planned for Northern RRV

Northeast North Dakota might be the next to get a new custom slaughter and processing plant.


Farmers feel fertilizer shortage

With spring and planting around the corner, farmers and grain elevators are faced with warnings about fertilizer shortages — another potential crisis in which railroads play a part.


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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.

AG AT-LARGE: Mother Nature is cruel and cold or a sustaining life force

FARGO, N.D. — It’s inevitable. When something bad happens in the environment — especially flood or storms — the blame usually goes to “Mother Nature.” I’m not sure what your mother was like, but mine wouldn’t have liked being held responsible for something like a flood.