Waterford farmer talks COVID challenges due to price fluctuations
Malchine Farms in Waterford has experienced its share of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the fluctuating prices of crops.
Those issues the owners discussed Monday with Rep. Bryan Steil, who represents Racine County in Congress.
Malchine Farms was also supposed to host a breakfast on the farm this summer, but that was canceled due to COVID. They are hoping to host it next year.
Kevin Malchine, co-owner and operator, told Steil that Wisconsin dairy farmers, who have been struggling through the pandemic, have seen a positive impact from the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA), which went into effect July 1.
This, Steil said, is thanks to cheese and Mexico, as a majority of milk produced in Wisconsin is used to make cheese, which is a large export to Mexico.
The dairy industry has struggled recently, with the trade war with China creating fluctuating prices as well as the pandemic, which left some farmers dumping their milk.
The Malchines, who harvest soy beans and corn, work together during harvest time, which they say generally involves 14-18 hours a day for about five weeks. Mike operates the combine harvesting the grains while Kevin drives the trucks transporting the grains where they need to go for storage or transport. They have experienced fluctuation in corn prices due to ethanol prices, which they say have fallen back to the prices that were being seen in the 80s.
“We can probably get around three bucks and we got three bucks in the 80s when that (equipment) didn’t cost half a million dollars a piece,” Kevin said.
Malchine Farms, which has been in operation since 1854, is a cash-crop operation which is owned and operated by Kevin along with Mike Malchine, though they were in the dairy business until 1995.
“It was either go big or go home, “ Mike said, referencing the change.
Thanks to new equipment, Kevin said farmers are able to be much more efficient and environmentally conscious.
During the tour, Kevin pulled out an iPad and an app connected to some of the farm equipment. The app showed GPS renderings of a field of a yield map that shows just how much of the field the combine had worked on.
In the case of fertilizers or pesticides, Kevin said the map allows them to know what has been done and what still needs attending to, so they aren’t covering the same spot twice or spray an area that doesn’t need treatment. Kevin also said that technology is evolving to the point where farmers will be able to selectively spray a weed in their fields, even if it is in close proximity to crop plants.
Rep. Steil pointed out that farming supports many other areas of life, including local manufacturers. In the case of Malchine Farms, they enable Case International Harvester equipment, New Holland equipment and a Leeson motor. Some of the Case and New Holland equipment has been produced by the CNH Industrial manufacturing plant in Racine while the Leeson motor is produced at Regal Beloit.
“This motor is a Leeson motor, “ Steil said. “So, I worked at Regal Beloit and Regal Beloit makes Leeson motors.”
Due to the support farming lends the community, Steil stressed the importance of supporting farmers. For Steil that has meant the USMCA as well as creating more options for Wisconsin farmers to export their products.
In particular, Steil said he has been working on a project to revitalize the port in Milwaukee and pushing for a break in the European Union.
“Then that opportunity to take that product from here in Racine County, get it to the port in Milwaukee, which is a reasonably short distance, get it on a container through St. Lawrence Seaway and all the way to Europe, and it would be really beneficial, I think, to farmers in Racine and farmers across Wisconsin,” Steil said.
“And ultimately everybody helps, right, so it comes all the way back to if you get a better product you’re going to buy a new Case, you’re going to buy a Regal Beloit motor and its going to go all the way down the line and all of these people are going to benefit if we get trade deals with these countries.”