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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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Farmers feel fertilizer shortage

With spring and planting around the corner, farmers and grain elevators are faced with warnings about fertilizer shortages — another potential crisis in which railroads play a part.


Hoeven offers fix for IRS expense change

Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., have introduced a bill to modify new IRS rules they say make it too difficult for family farmers and small business owners to deduct equipment repair and supply expenses

Berg to testify in sugar trade action

The U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission are about to make their first steps in determining merits of a pair of trade cases filed March 28 by U.S. sugar producers and processors. The cases allege unfair subsidization and dumping of Mexican sugar into the U.S.


BNSF VP says rail backlog will gradually improve

John H. Miller, vice president of agricultural products for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, answered lots of questions on April 9 in a meeting of the North Dakota Ag Rail Business Council in Fargo. Among the efforts Miller mentioned are more passing lanes, double-tracking between Minot, N.D., and Glasgow, Mont., and new side tracks for passing


Many ranchers were ready for March blizzard

Ranchers in the area say they were mostly prepared for the blizzard that swept through cattle country starting March 30. They say the storm was no comparison to the October blizzard that killed more than 40,000 animals.


BNSF weekly report puts spotlight on Grand Forks, N.D.

A Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway weekly report on late cars released March 28 alludes to “green shoots” of improvement, but contains results that fell further behind for the fourth week in a row for the four-state area. It also alludes to impending issues with the winter wheat harvest coming in June.

US sugar group files petition alleging Mexico has been dumping sugar, creating subsidies

U.S. sugar producers — suffering from plummeting sugar prices — on March 28 filed an antidumping and countervailing duty petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission and U.S. Commerce Department.

ND PSC: Earth Harvest suppliers to get 40 percent

Farmers and other companies who delivered grain to now insolvent Earth Harvest Mills in Harvey, N.D., will receive about $1 million — roughly 22 percent of what they initially said they were owed, and 40 cents on a dollar for valid claims, according to a North Dakota Public Service Commission recommendation.

Grain dealers tap Letcher to replace retiring Strege

Stu Letcher has been named the new executive vice president of the North Dakota Grain Dealers Association, to replace Steve Strege, who is retiring from that position at the end of May after 35 years in the post.


Court grants PSC deal in Anderson Seed case

Legumex Walker will pay $685,000 in approved settlement.

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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?”


Fall poetry in farm country

Fall is upon us. It seems hard to believe, but the row crop season harvest could be over before the end of October, depending on whether we start getting badly needed rain. Forgive me for not writing a “drought of 2013” story until we know whether it’s rained before freeze-up.


Crop insurance

How many drought years will test program limits?


What's real and what's obscene?

FARGO, N.D. — The “pink slime” controversy brings to mind my days growing up, and my re-education about food at Brookings (S.D.) Middle School. It was there in the late 1960s and early 1970s that I first ate school lunch.

Is that pop champagne?

FARGO, N.D. — If farmers are the eternal optimists, then they may have more to be optimistic in 2012 than ever before. And more to be careful about, I would think.


100 years of history

FARGO, N.D. — My congratulations to the North Dakota Grain Dealers Association, which celebrated its 100th annual convention in January.


A prediction on American Crystal’s lockout situation

FARGO, N.D. — I’ve often been asked what I think the future of the labor lockout between American Crystal Sugar Co. and the Bakery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union locals. So here’s what I think.