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Pates

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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Articles

Elevators: prices slow train demand

Grain elevators in the region are complaining less about railroads falling behind on freight delivery schedules, in part because farmers aren’t anxious to sell grain at recent lower prices.

Appareo signs joint venture

Fargo-based Appareo Systems on Nov. 5 announced it has agreed to enter a joint venture with AGCO Corp. to develop technology for advanced machine control systems.

American Crystal crop estimated at $37 per ton

American Crystal Sugar Co. has come out with an initial payment projection of $37 per ton for 2014 crop beets — a dollar lower than last year’s projection at this date and likely a money-loser for farmers and shareholders, if realized.

Shippers request 'service arbitration'

Some agricultural shippers say North Dakota should institute a “service arbitration” to solve issues between grain shippers and the railroads in the state.

Snow slogs corn harvest

Snow is slowing but not stopping the end of an exceptional corn harvest in the region.

Simplot's Innate GMO potato approved

Twenty years after scientists at North Dakota State University were among the first to conduct genetically modified potato research trials in the U.S., J.R. Simplot Co. has received U.S. Department of Agriculture approval for deregulation of a GMO potato. USDA approved Innate, a potato developed from other potato genes so it produces fewer acrylamides when fried. Anti-GMO groups are pressing for USDA to reverse its Nov. 7 decision. Clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected within weeks, according to Simplot.

American Crystal releases preliminary crop payment estimate

American Crystal Sugar Co. has come out with an initial payment projection of $37 per ton for 2014 crop beets — a dollar lower than last year’s projection at this date and likely a money-loser for farmers and shareholders, if realized.

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Winter rail service uncertain

Regional farm group officials welcome more detailed railroad reporting that shows dwell times for grain cars versus oil and other industries, but say it’s too soon to know whether that will translate into adequate service this winter.

Eric Halverson named CEO of Grand Forks-based Black Gold Farms

Eric Halverson has been named CEO of Black Gold Farms of Grand Forks, N.D., in a planned family succession plan. His father, Gregg Halverson, turned 65 on Oct. 23 and will remain president of the board of directors.

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US, Mexico reach deal to slow sugar imports

The region's sugar officials aren't yet commenting, but a tentative deal would slow the flood of sugar that had plunged the region's sugar beet cooperative profits for the 2013 and 2014 crops.

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Columns

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.

AG AT-LARGE: Northwood, N.D., farmer tells it like it is

FARGO, N.D. — It took me more than 25 years of jawboning to finally get an interview with Enoch Thorsgard.

AG AT-LARGE: Recalling another day

Remembering another economic crisis

Is another bust in farming a sure thing?

FARGO, N.D. — “Things are seldom as good as they say it is in the newspaper — and almost never as bad,” Mikkel Pates says to friends at least once a month for the past 20 years, often over a “nice cup of tea.”

Brushing at biomass

FARGO, N.D. — While attending parts of a recent conference in Fargo, N.D., titled “Northern Plains Biomass Economy: What Makes Sense?” I thought — hey — this was the right question for a conference. I congratulate North Dakota State University for pulling this together. I think “what makes sense” is a complicated issue here because it’s like solving a math question with multiple unknowns.