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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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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.

ND House Ag Committee hears testimony on anti-corporate bill

North Dakota’s House Agriculture Committee heard more than eight hours of testimony March 5 on a bill that would relax the state’s anti-corporate farming law to allow corporations to own swine and dairy operations. Some think the bill opens the door to corporate ownership of beef feedlots above the current size cap of 640 acres, or one square mile.

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New year guesses can entertain, guide us

FARGO, N.D. — My wife, Barb, and I have an annual New Year’s ritual — Our Predictions.

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.