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Jonathan Knutson of Grand Forks, N.D., is a staff writer for Agweek and AgweekTV served the North American Agricultural Journalists organization as president in 2018 and 2019. Photo taken April 8, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

Agweek wins, places in national contest

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Agweek staff writer Jonathan Knutson won the column-writing category from the North American Agricultural Journalists and capped his year as president of the organization at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Knutson presided over the annual meeting at the Cosmos Club in Washington on April 8.

"It's been a real honor to serve and also it's been very useful and interesting professionally," Knutson said. He said meeting members across the U.S. and Canada has given him a greater perspective into the industry.

The NAAJ event includes a National Press Club dinner and gala where 120 heard the Second Amendments, a band led by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

Knutson, who reports for Agweek magazine and AgweekTV from Grand Forks, N.D., also was a finalist for the Glenn Cunningham Award, which is the group's agricultural journalist of the year. The award was won by a team from InsideClimate News.

The writing contest had 189 entries from 90 writers:

Columns: Knutson's "Plain Living" columns about the need to stop a "trend of farm suicide,'" the "changing face of Upper Midwest ag'" and "Why Trump's trade war alarms me."

Mikkel Pates, also of Agweek in Fargo, placed second in columns with "Ag-At-Large" columns about growing "social wealth," and "Tariffying future for U.S. soy," and his goal of "Spreading light, not heat" in journalism. John Morriss, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, a, retired editorial director of Farm Business Communications, judged the category.

Spot news: First place went to a team of four DTN/The Progressive Farmer, for a series titled "Digital Yield Tour 2018." DTN used internet-based technology to transmit localized information. Judge John Dvorak, a retired reporter with the Kansas City Star, judged the category.

Pates placed second with "Did safari hunter kill a co-op?" about the Ashby (Minn.) Farmers Cooperative Elevator. Dvorak praised it as a "bizarre, readable story about devastating case of wrongdoing by elevator operator which hit farmers and a small town hard. Must create chills for many rural elevators. Hopefully, will intensify accountability of such businesses."

Pates also won honorable mention for the story "Iowa biofuel con-man tripped up at Grafton, N.D." The story was about convicted fraudster Darrell Duane Smith that the judge said was an "excellent mix of human element and hard facts concerning a rural-oriented investment fraud that, unfortunately, is an all-too-frequent happening. Hopefully, it demonstrates yet again, how people should be exceedingly careful when investing money."

Series: Georgina Gustin, Neela Banerjee and John H. Cushman placed first InsideClimate News, a Pulitzer Prize-winning non-profit, non-partisan news organization that produces daily and weekly newsletters, based in New York. Their "Harvesting Peril: Extreme Weather and Climate Change on the American Farm," was judged by Marcel Dufresne, a retired journalism professor from the University of Connecticut.

A reporting team from by Agri-Pulse, by Ed Maixner, Sara Wyant, Philip Brasher and Steve Davies, placed second with "The Breeding Edge—Will the breeding evolution lead to the next green revolution?" Agri-Pulse is a content provider for Agweek magazine and AgweekTV.

Pates picked up an honorable mention for stories on the Ashby cooperative. "An interview with the friend who unwittingly helped the manager 'disappear' is a nice addition," Dufresne said.

Features: Gustin, Banerjee, and Cushman, of InsideClimate News won first place with their "Inside Climate Change" series. Their entry was "How the Farm Bureau's Climate Agenda is Failing its Farmers." The category was judged by Rebecca Jones, a veteran feature writer for the Rocky Mountain News, and an Episcopal pastor in Colorado. She said it "tells a chilling story of a lobbying organization that has gone off the rails."

Blogs: Katie Dehlinger, DTN/The Progressive Farmer; won with an entry that included that included the topics: quick cash for farmland is a scam, failing at free trade, and Iowa land pricing declining. Rona Johnson of Anchorage, Alaska, a former Agweek editor, judged the category.

News: First place went to Gill Gullickson of Successful Farming in Des Moines, winning with "HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) goes to Church." The category was judged by Mike Jacobs, retired publisher and of the Grand Forks Herald, and former Agweek publisher.

Special projects: Robert Arnason, Barb Glen, Ed White, The Western Producer, with a special project on Canadian dairy supply management. The category was judged by Ed Curlett, director of public affairs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Health Inspection Service, and a former reporter for the Salisbury Daily Times in Maryland.

Editorial: Urban Lehner, DTN/The Progressive Farmer, won the category with columns about farm programs, E.coli and the ups and downs of Chipotle Mexican Grill. Jerry Perkins, a freelance writer and former farm editor for the Des Moines Register, judged the category.