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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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Minn-Dak sugar beet payment estimated at $36.86 per ton

Shareholders of Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative of Wahpeton, N.D., can expect a low beet payment at $36.86 per ton for their 2014 crop, with an additional $3 per ton contingency to be paid out if processing goes well.


Ag shipping discussion provides few answers

What will the region’s agricultural railroad service look like in 2040? Will farmers in the Upper Great Plains continue to see trains two and three weeks late in the next 18 months? These were questions asked but not answered Dec. 8 at the first day of a conference titled Post-Harvest Handling and Transportation for Agriculture Products: Issues and Alternatives. The event is sponsored by North Dakota State University and North Dakota’s two U.S. senators. It concludes Dec. 9.


Price swings good for alternative crops

With prospects for lack-luster returns for corn and soybeans in 2015, some farmers in the region are thinking alternative crops could fit into a new, profitable future.

American Crystal governs joint ventures

American Crystal Sugar Co.’s board isn’t outlawing joint ventures, but it is taking a step toward guaranteeing all entities always deliver beets — the basic ingredient for making sugar.

Johnson brothers trial underway

Jurors in a federal crop insurance fraud trial in Fargo, N.D., were alerted that they’ll have to make a judgment on the credibility of a former hired hand in a case against farming brothers Aaron and Derek Johnson of Northwood, N.D.

Regional ag lender survey shows farm debt rising

It might not be a return to the 1980s credit crisis, but another ag lender survey shows a yellow light for “slow” in the region’s agricultural pace heading into 2015.


Berg: $37 payment to American Crystal growers is ‘miserable’

Most American Crystal Sugar Co. farmers will lose money on the 2014 crop at current price projections, but company officials say things will improve next year. David Berg, president and CEO for the Moorhead, Minn.-based co-op, told attendees at the company’s annual meeting Dec. 4 in Fargo that the $37 payment projection is “miserable.”


State committee says Benda solely responsible for SD EB-5 scandal

A new state report says Richard Benda alone was responsible for the investment-visa scandal that helped finance a failed Aberdeen, S.D., beef processing plant and other agricultural projects.

Opening statements begin in federal insurance fraud case

Jurors in a federal crop insurance fraud trial in Fargo, N.D., were alerted that they’ll have to make a judgment on the credibility of a former hired hand in a case against farming brothers Aaron and Derek Johnson of Northwood, N.D.

Jury seated in Johnsons spud insurance case

FARGO, N.D. - The federal crop insurance fraud case against Aaron Scott Johnson, his brother Derek Johnson and their Johnson Potato Co. of Northwood, N.D., started Dec. 1 in Fargo, but the first day was entirely taken up by the jury selection process.

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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.

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.”