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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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Scuse defends sugar stock-use ratio change

MANDAN, N.D. — A top U.S. Department of Agriculture official says a formula for figuring U.S. sugar imports will continue to be based on higher stocks-to-user ratios than were used two years ago.

ND State Mill temporarily halts new noncontract grain

The North Dakota State Mill and Elevator in Grand Forks has asked farmers and elevators to stop bringing in stored grain that isn’t priced, a result of a temporary shortage of grain storage space that will be rectified in a few days.

West Fargo, N.D., could bid to host world plowing event

The Red River Valley Fairgrounds in West Fargo, N.D., is considering whether to bid for the World Plowing Championship in 2019.

American Crystal sugar beet payments to drop, as expected

American Crystal Sugar Co. growers are learning the sobering reality about 2013 sugar beet crop payments — they will be about half what they were last year.

ND corn farmers fear propane shortage

Farmers across much of southeast and central North Dakota are feeling the pain of an acute shortage of propane for drying corn, just when they need it most.

Hoeven, Klobuchar ready for farm bill conference

An extra $100 million for rural water management and an expanded program for farmers to design their own Conservation Reserve Program contracts were among items that Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., discussed in yet another farm bill roundtable in Fargo, N.D., on Oct. 22.


Northern Plains Nitrogen expands its shareholder offering for ND project

A company that plans to build a $1.7 billion fertilizer production plant in Grand Forks, N.D., is expanding its seed capital — or shareholder — drive to include farmers and others in the region, and beyond.

Dakota Growers sold to Post for $370 million

North Dakota’s Dakota Growers Pasta Co., based in Carrington, N.D., has been sold again — this time to Post Holdings Inc. of St. Louis, Mo.


RMA removes normal weather provision from prevented plant policy

The agency eliminated the “normal weather” provision, meaning farmers can collect prevented plant insurance, as long as they’ve planted in one of four previous years, regardless of weather situation in the year they planted. The provision has been a sticking point for some farmers trying to collect prevented plant insurance for their 2013 crops, as RMA had classified 2012 as an “abnormally dry” year, thereby disqualifying it for inclusion in the one-in-four rule.

Practical, provocative

Today’s theme is energy. That’s what Dwayne Beck says, explaining that “journalists want a theme,” as he greets the latest scribe to his Dakota Lakes Research Farm in Pierre, S.D. In fact, for several months, Beck has said his goal is to make the research farm “fossil-fuel neutral” — by 2026.


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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.

AG AT-LARGE: Historian recounts stories of Red River Valley laborers

FARGO, N.D. — If you’re at all linked to or love agriculture in the Red River Valley, especially sugar beets or potatoes, you should take a few hours and read this new book — “North for the Harvest,” by Jim Norris, a history teacher at North Dakota State University in Fargo.

AG AT-LARGE: Grandin's book offers tips

FARGO, N.D. — Temple Grandin is in the news again. Grandin is one of the nation’s best-known autistic people and a famous designer of animal handling facilities and practices for cows, chickens, sheep and pigs. I interviewed her in 2004 when she was a guest lecturer at North Dakota State University in Fargo.