FARGO, N.D. - The Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association is looking for a new executive director.

Association president Dan Younggren of Hallock, Minn., says the executive committee about three weeks ago parted ways with Duane Maatz who had been the group's executive director since spring 2015.

"The association has decided they would like to go in a different direction, trying to be more in tune with people in Washington, D.C.," Younggren said. He said Maatz "didn't fit" with that direction "higher and higher up" and didn't think they were "going to get there with present employment."

Maatz said he declined to comment at this time.

Younggren said the association has advertised for applications for the position. They are in the process of "gathering" those applications and will consider how to proceed after their next executive board meeting, which has not yet been set. Applications are due Aug. 27 to Bruce Kleven, the association's attorney in Minneapolis.

"We're looking for a gold star, someone who wants to ride to the top, to be in tune with the folks out in D.C. and whatnot," Younggren said.

Maatz, 59, came to the beet group after serving as executive director of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association. Maatz graduated from North Dakota State University in 1982 in agricultural education. He started his career in agricultural education and worked in adult farm business management. He served 10 years as the president of the Red River Valley Potato Growers Association and then was named president of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association in East Grand Forks, Minn.

The Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association was incorporated in 1954. Members produce beets for the American Crystal Sugar Co., based in Moorhead, Minn. Association officials helped convert Crystal from a corporate ownership to a farmer-owned cooperative system. Much of the U.S. beet sugar industry has since converted to the cooperative ownership form.

The RRVSGA claims to represent over 2,500 growers, "raising sugar beets on about 400,000 acres and delivering those beets to five factories up and down the Red River of the North."

The co-op itself is led by elected board members. Many typically are first members of the growers association board.

While American Crystal itself has a full-time lobbyist in Washington, D.C., the association is associated with the American Sugarbeet Growers Association in Washington, which has a separate lobbyist to represent a federation of 17 grower associations across the entire industry. The RRVSGA has a special responsibility to represent Crystal growers' interests in state capitals in Minnesota and North Dakota. The U.S. has 22 factories, but only two are not owned by their growers, even though they are owned by producers in other co-ops (including Sidney Sugar Inc., Sidney, Mont., a subsidiary of American Crystal, and a Spreckels Sugar Co., Brawley, Calif., a subsidiary of Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative of Renville, Minn.)

Maatz replaced Nick Sinner, who served as executive director of the RRVSGA from March 2004 to December 2014. Sinner went on to serve as executive director and then president/chief executive officer of the Minnesota-South Dakota Equipment Dealers Association in Owatonna, Minn., until December 2017.