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`RHINOS’ TILL FOR LESS CASH FROM THE TILL

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Americans may find farming is more economical the Russian or Chinese way.

Walter Hanssen, general manager of Utah Farm Equipment Inc. in Spanish Fork, said his Russian and Chinese tractors help area farmers get the same amount of work for half the cost of American tractors.Belarus, the Russian line, has been sold in America for 18 years, said E.W. Muehlhausen, manager of operations for Belarus in Milwaukee. About 5,000 Belaruses were sold last year in the United States.

"We've had consecutive growth for the past 11 years," Muehlhausen said. What makes American farmers turn so readily to a Russian product?

"In one word, it's price," Muehlhausen said.

Hanssen agreed. "Utah Farm Equipment tries to find the best, low-cost tractors around the world."

A Belarus costs about 50 percent less than a similar model John Deere or Ford, Hanssen said. For example, a 90-horsepower Belarus goes for $24,000; the same thing in a John Deere would cost $40,000, he said.

The difference is in technology, Muehlhausen said. A Belarus will do everything a John Deere, Case or Ford will - the Belarus just uses older, simpler technology. Muehlhausen compared the tractors to Cadillacs and Chevrolets. If a person can afford a Cadillac, he'll get it, but more people drive Chevrolets, he said.

The Belarus may make more noise, and it doesn't come with standard air conditioning or stereo, but it gets the job done, Hanssen said.

"It'll do their job for half the money," he said.

Belarus makes models from 31 horsepower to 335 horsepower.

Every bit as good as the Belarus is a Rhino, Hanssen said. The Rhino is made in China using John Deere technology. John Deere sold technology to the Chinese a number of years ago with a no-compete clause, Hanssen said, but now that clause has expired and the tractors are on the American market.

Rhino, with 18-horsepower to 90-horsepower models, is good for small landowners, Hanssen said. Mark Leonard, president of Rhino, agreed.

Many people in China have one-acre or half-acre farms, Leonard said. Seventy percent of China is agricultural, and the Chinese use the Rhino tractors to farm their land, often six days a week, 16 hours a day, he said.

Compared to more well-known makes, "the Rhino'll do the same job, it'll use less fuel, it's easier to repair and it'll probably last longer," Leonard said. The Chinese are "the champions of the small tractor," he added.

"I love my tractor," said Gaylon McInelly of McInelly Concrete. "I think it'll pretty much do anything you want it to."

McInelly has owned his Rhino for eight months and uses it to grade concrete. He has recommended the tractor to friends and plans to buy more himself.

Some people balk at buying foreign tractors, but the truth is that many 100-horsepower and smaller American tractors aren't manufactured in the United States anymore, Hanssen said. Depending on the model, Case Internationals are produced in either Japan or England. John Deeres are made in Japan or West Germany; Fords are produced in England, Belgium or Mexico.

Leonard said that every part on every Rhino tractor is available in the United States and is shipped second-day air.