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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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BNSF deal sets Verona, ND, plan

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and the Red River Valley & Western railroads have come to an agreement on shuttle train rates for Verona, N.D., to all export ports.

Rising corn yields, rail delays lead to bin-building boom

Derrick Rauen of Summit, S.D., is on the front lines of what industry experts say is another year in the region’s bin-building binge.


Ag groups want to limit rail costs with late cars

The North Dakota Farmers Union and North Dakota Corn Growers Association are among 23 organizations nationwide filing comments on rate case complaint procedures with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board. The action is “the largest combined filing by farm organizations in years,” according to the joint news release by the two groups.

Rail service lags behind projections

Agricultural train shipments are getting a little better, but not as fast as Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway had expected.


CP developing new car ordering plan, adding grain cars

Canadian Pacific Railway says it will create a new grain car ordering system for its fleet, as well as add more cars. The announcement is in response to a June 20 order by the Surface Transportation Board requiring CP and Burlington Northern Santa Fe to develop a plan to catch up on severely late grain car shipments.

Railroads respond to STB order

The two largest railroads serving farmers are not saying publicly exactly how they’ll respond to a Surface Transportation Board rule that requires new or updated plans to solve grain shipment delays by June 27.

SD Attorney General rules Anderson Seed is civil, not criminal case

An investigator for the South Dakota Attorney General’s office has told farmers and elevator operators owed money in the Anderson Seed Inc. insolvency that the case is civil, and criminal charges won’t be filed against Ron and Stephanie Anderson and their Mentor, Minn.-based sunflower processing company.

NDSU grows with bean breeding industry

North Dakota State University’s dry edible bean breeding program began in 1980 and is one of the nation’s largest programs on the topic.


NDSU scientists map genes of the common bean

Several North Dakota State University scientists are close to the center of a national project that completed the sequence of the common bean genome.


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.


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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.

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.