MENDOTA, Ill. — With corn and soybean prices depressed, farmers in Illinois might soon be taking a look at another crop — wheat.
With the official opening of a new flour milling facility by Archer Daniels Midland Co. in Mendota, soft wheat might offer some opportunities for farmers in the region.
“When it comes to soft wheat, that will be the local draw. A lot of ground in this area has corn and soybeans, but there is also some wheat and our hopes are to increase the amount of soft wheat grown in this area,” said Kevin Like, president of ADM Milling, at the Sept. 18 ribbon cutting and open house for the plant, located on Illinois Route 34 and I-39 on the eastern edge of Mendota.
“Whenever you add domestic processing, it’s good for the farmer,” Like said.
One Illinois wheat grower who welcomed the new plant was Illinois Agriculture Director John Sullivan, who also farms in Schuyler County, raising corn, soybeans, wheat and cattle.
“It is just a thrill, as a farmer, to know there is an opportunity here at this facility for added value to our growing of grain here locally. It’s really a tremendous opportunity to have the ability to add value to our commodities,” Sullivan said.
Jim Harper, general manager of the ADM Mendota flour mill, has been a board member of the Illinois Wheat Association for over two years and member of the association itself for eight years. Harper came to the Mendota plant from an ADM plant in St. Louis.
“I think having a market for that wheat, that is what Mendota is going to bring from the soft wheat standpoint. We haven’t had a good market for our producers to be able to sell, and I think this is really going to give them that potential for a market, beyond going to the river or to a feed outlet,” Harper said.
Harper said the mill, which started production of flour in July, could offer opportunities for local farmers.
“We are making a value-added product here. We want high-quality wheat, grown in this area, and we pay good money for that wheat,” Harper said.
To produce the white and different varieties of whole wheat flour that it supplies to the restaurant and baking industries in the Chicagoland area, as well as northwest Indiana and eastern Iowa, the plant uses three types of wheat — hard wheat, spring wheat and soft wheat.
Hard wheat will originate from the Kansas and Nebraska areas, typically the nation’s Wheat Belt. That region also encompasses the winter wheat producing areas of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota and the upper Midwest and eastern Great Plains.
The new facility includes a loop railroad track with a 100-car shuttle rail unloading facility, three bulk truck load outs and a rail load-out capability.
Soft wheat will provide the opportunity for growers in Illinois, Like said.
Much of the soft wheat grown in Illinois is grown in the southern part of the state and typically is grown in a rotation with soybeans, with the wheat being planted in the fall, after soybeans are harvested, and then being harvested in the spring, prior to soybean planting.
“They said they will be buying and they are receptive to buying from Illinois wheat producers,” said Mike Doherty, executive director of the Illinois Wheat Association.
Doherty said the presence of a flour milling plant of the sheer scale of the ADM Mendota plant could have a positive impact. The Mendota mill snags the record for being the largest flour mill ever built from the ground up at one time. It is expected to employ 30 to 40 employees.
“It’s bound to have a positive impact on prices. I do expect some, maybe small, but some lift in our Illinois delivered prices to mills as a result of this ADM plant opening here in Mendota,” Doherty said.
The Mendota flour milling facility can produce 3 million pounds of flour per day and has wheat storage capacity of 2.75 million bushels.
In addition to the flour, the plant also produces a livestock feed component, called mill feed, wheat middlings or midds. That byproduct is the bran that is separated from the wheat endosperm during the milling process.
Like said the company has a market for that byproduct, but the new location also could offer new opportunities for that, too.
“We already had a market for that from the Chicago location, but with our location being a bit more rural here, I think the market is only bigger here,” Like said.