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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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Easing of Cuba restrictions creates opportunity for ag

The Dec. 17 agreement between the U.S. and Cuba to normalize diplomatic relations between the two countries could lead to improved trade possibilities and important opportunities for U.S. Agriculture, Upper Great Plains officials said.

Transportation 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?

Jury finds ND potato farmers guilty in crop insurance fraud case

A federal jury in Fargo found Northwood, N.D., potato farming brothers Aaron and Derek Johnson guilty of all felony counts of crop insurance fraud brought against them.

Jury gets Johnson crop insurance case

The credibility of a convicted felon will be key in a jury’s decision on whether Aaron and Derek Johnson, two third-generation potato farmers who operated out of Northwood, N.D., are guilty of intentionally destroying some of their crops in order to get unfair gains in crop insurance and federal disaster payments.

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.


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Beyond the boom and bust cycle

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” It’s a world-famous epigram that is said to have been coined by French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in the 1800s. I think of that saying as I hear experts talk in hushed tones about the times we’re heading into.


Measure 5 sets back ag-hunter relations

I took about a week off in late October this year to go pheasant hunting with Dick Unkenholz, a retired former United Methodist pastor. Dick baptized our two children in the late 1980s.


STB a toothless tiger

Officials aren’t going to do much to make the trains run on time to alleviate the 2014 ag rail problems. Farmers and elevators need to prepare to suffer through 2015 and maybe 2016 and beyond.


Lessons from California prove eye-opening

A few weeks ago, I used some time off from covering Upper Great Plains agriculture for Agweek to attend a two-day seminar focusing on the “Salad Bowl of the World” in Salinas, Calif.


Support for farming

I’d like to remind farmers that they still have a lot of fans.


Battling agriculture's critics

Two recent experiences have left me shaking and scratching my head about how farmers battle critics and phantoms.


The story of Scotty, a buffalo pioneer

Recently I attended “Buffalo King,” a 2013 documentary movie on the life of James “Scotty” Philip, at the Fargo Film Festival.


Faith and business

“At AEFS we are a family of believers. We believe in God, we believe in America, we believe in the family farm and we believe in the Jerusalem artichoke.” — American Energy Farming Systems corporate philosophy.


Back to the '80s

Will farmers wake up and react to weed resistance?

Will beef always be for dinner?

FARGO, N.D. — In the 1980s, the Wendy’s restaurant chain asked a memorable question, “Where’s the Beef?” Thirty years later, a small minority of Americans are asking a different question, with a twist — “Why is there beef?”