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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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ND Legislature passes bill to fund ag litigation against federal environmental regulations

The North Dakota Legislature has passed the agricultural piece of a two-part legislative effort, designed to create a fund to help legally protect the state's two largest industries -- agriculture and energy -- from federal environmental regulations.

Aaron Johnson files appeal notice in crop insurance fraud conviction

Both of the potato-growing brothers from Northwood, N.D., convicted of federal crop insurance fraud have submitted to the Cass County Jail in Fargo and are waiting to be transferred to a federal prison, probably in Duluth, Minn.


Farmers in the Upper Midwest need rain

The most recent NASS weather report shows the four-state area is below the five-year average for rainfall accumulation.


NASS releases first weekly weather report of the cropping season

It’s early, but seems like it’s about time to start planting. Seeding is just getting started in Agweek country, as crop and livestock producers in most areas are looking for moisture, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service first weekly report of the season on April 6.


Canada discontinues railroad penalties; US grain cars caught up

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., says he's pleased the Canadian government has decided to discontinue its penalties for Class I railroads in Canada if they fail to move minimum weekly grain volumes, but he says they could resume any time.


Farmers Union: Pope thinks highly of family farmers

Mark Watne, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, says a visit with Pope Francis on March 25 was a reminder that the Vatican thinks “family farms are the best tools for food security, and men and women are the center of God’s creation and are the custodians of the environment.”

State Farmers Union presidents to meet with Pope Francis

Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana Farmers Union presidents will meet with Pope Francis on Wednesday as part of faith-based farming program.

ITC thumps challenge to U.S.-Mexico sugar pact

The U.S. International Trade Commission on March 19 upheld agreements between the U.S. and Mexican governments designed to stop subsidized Mexican sugar from being dumped on the U.S. market.


Mixed reactions to ND House passage of anti-corporate exemptions

The North Dakota House Agriculture Committee on March 16 passed new exemptions for dairy and swine for the anti-corporate farming bill. The bill goes back to the Senate to consider amendments passed in the House version.


Johnsons get federal prison in crop insurance fraud case

Potato farming brothers Aaron Johnson of Northwood, N.D., and Derek Johnson of Vancouver, British Columbia, will spend time in federal prison in the Federal Prison Camp in Duluth, Minn., and are jointly responsible for restitution of nearly $1 million because of crop insurance fraud.

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Not much good news in 2015

Hope for improvements in March, April


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?