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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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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.

Slow planting prompts insurance deadline extension requests

With a wet, late planting season, farmers are approaching planting deadlines for full crop insurance compensation on various crops. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to consider delaying the final crop insurance planting deadline for corn this year and other crops in future years.


Sunflower prospects rise

Sunflower industry officials expect to see more acres than earlier anticipated in central North Dakota and east-central South Dakota — especially now, with delayed planting of small grains and canola.


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.


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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.

Steiger pride on display

FARGO, N.D. — Where I work, I keep a model of the Steiger Puma tractor on the mantle of the rolltop desk I inherited from my dad. I bought the model tractor June 17, 1986, the day Steiger Tractor Inc. of Fargo, N.D., announced it was filing Chapter 11 reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Holding our breath

FARGO, N.D. — “Come on, global warming!” You don’t actually hear that cheer, but there are farmers in the northern Red River Valley and areas to the east and west no doubt are thinking it.


Obama vs. McCain?

FARGO, N.D. -- The other day, I attended a news conference, of sorts, regarding the agricultural positions of presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama.