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Published June 29, 2010, 01:38 PM

Dryer year eases new president into first months of American Sugarbeet Growers Association post

BARNEY, N.D. — Russell Mauch has gotten a bit of a breather from the excessively wet years the southern Red River Valley has been known for in the past few years, and just in time for his stint as president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.

By: Mikkel Pates, Associated Press

BARNEY, N.D. — Russell Mauch has gotten a bit of a breather from the excessively wet years the southern Red River Valley has been known for in the past few years, and just in time for his stint as president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.

Mauch, 55, was elected to the post in February of this year.

Since then, he’s mostly been busy with getting the crop in. Planting started April 12, followed by a 2.4 inch rain, and then the cool, wet conditions in late April and early May.

“Since then, it’s been going pretty good and we’re in pretty good shape,” Mauch says noting he’d finished his first round of spraying and was finally able to breathe his first sigh of relief.

Mauch has been at the beet business for a good share of his life.

He was a sophomore in college in 1974 when he helped with Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative’s first-ever sugar beet harvest. His father, Bernard and brother, Bill, were original shareholders in the co-op.

“My father probably had a lot with my decision to come home,” he says.

Mauch, known as “Russ” or “Rusty” in his home area, had been taking animal science at North Dakota State University, where he graduated and went into the banking business before coming home to farm. He met his wife, Mary, while she was a bank examiner and he was an assistant vice president at a Valley City, N.D., bank, working in agriculture and other loans.

They were married and went on to have three daughters, Tina, Tori and Skye, who are in their early 20s and pursuing other careers. Mauch says he’d welcome his family to continue in the agriculture business.

“I think ag is the great opportunity for young people, especially in North Dakota,” he says.

The Mauch brothers got out of their 1,000-head feedlot business in the late 1970s and focused on crops. He farmed in a joint venture with brothers, Randy and Bill, but eventually went on his own and now is in a venture with his brother-in-law, Rick Bladow, and Bladow’s son, Chris, who recently started farming on his own. Together, they cover some 8,200 acres of land.


Mauch believes in farmers evolving and adapting.

In the 1980s, the Mauchs were using cover crops. They modified an old Alloway planter that accomplished some of what lately has become strip tillage.

In 1998, Mauch went on the Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative board of directors. A few years later, he went on the board of the ASGA. He also serves on the board of United Sugars Corp., which markets sugar for Minn-Dak, American Crystal Sugar Co. of Moorhead, Minn., and U.S. Sugar Corp. of Clewiston, Fla.

Mauch wasn’t the first, but he was one of the early adapters when Minn-Dak Farmers members began to use some of the spent lime from the beet processing operation farm fields, rather than piling it up west of the plant. Other producers in southern Minnesota and Michigan had started the practice in earlier years.

In the fall of 2002, Mauch took 500 tons to put on his land, adding to the 2,000 tons other shareholders were using. He set out 40-acre plots to add 4-ton-per acre spent lime applications in separate quarters of land. He carefully monitored corn yields there in the following years, realizing 10- and 30-bushel per acre increases compared with the rest of the land in those quarters.

Today, he regularly uses 4- to 12-ton per acre applications on much of his land, realizing yield differences

that come from the calcium and

micronutrients in the material,

as well as a not-yet-explained reduction in aphanamyces, a bacterial


Minn-Dak now produces about 100,000 to 110,000 tons of spent lime

in a typical processing year, and

about 100,000 tons of it go out to farm fields.


Mauch says another big change in his farming involves tiling.

Only about 5 percent of Minn-Dak’s fields are tile-drained, but he says the practice is becoming much more popular, especially with the wet years that have come in the “odd” years of 2005, 2007 and 2009. Mauch and the Bladows managed to get all of their corn crops into the bin and the fields worked last fall, but there are others in their neighborhood who were not so fortunate.

For some reason, Mauch says he’s had better years in 2006, 2008 and now in 2010.

The Mauch/Bladow operation has hired some tile work done, but this year purchased their own tiling machine, which they were planning to get into operation in late June — tiling right into standing corn.

Mauch is a big believer that tiling is an unrealized tool in the fight against flooding in the Red River Valley region. “If they took the millions and the billions they’ll be putting into the diversion (in the Fargo, N.D. and Moorhead, Minn. area), and put it into tiling the whole valley, that would create

a 3-foot-deep ‘sponge’ that I think would solve most of the flooding,” he says.