The Illinois Wheat Association recently joined the National Association of Wheat Growers.
“Our organization continues to grow,” said Mike Doherty, interim executive director of the association. “There’s a lot of interest here in interacting and communicating with how wheat producers are doing in other states, so we can learn from them.”
California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington are member-states of NAWG, as are Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming.
Doherty said about 500,000 acres of wheat were planted in Illinois last year. Acreage has been shrinking with prices in recent years, down from a peak of 1.7 million acres in 1996.
Wheat is primarily grown as part of a double cropping system with soybean production.
A recent wheat and soybean conference in southern Illinois had a “surprisingly strong” turnout, Doherty said.
“It just showed me the strength of the interest here, and how a wheat with soybeans double-cropping system actually does pay out,” he said. “Even with these low wheat prices, if you can get the yields you need on both beans and wheat, the combination of the two, in spreading some fixed costs over two crops in one year, increases the profitability per acre.”
For farmers struggling to make a profit, Doherty said, every little bit helps.
Some agronomists say the double-cropping system helps with nematode control and benefits soil tilth, he said.
A new mill in Illinois is opening, Doherty said. He pointed to a “general excitement” in mills that currently take wheat.
Doherty believes wheat prices will eventually increase, and demand for protein will lead to more demand for corn and wheat in livestock feed.
Illinois primarily sells its wheat in domestic markets, Doherty said.
He hopes to get more involved with neighboring states, particularly those also using wheat rotations with corn and soybeans, to study their economic efficiencies.
In a press release, NAWG president Gordon Stoner said the organization seeks input from wheat growers across the nation to form well-rounded policy positions that benefit all farmers.
“The Illinois wheat industry carries a long and rich history within the state,” Stoner stated. “Illinois having a seat at the table allows us to better understand the concerns and needs of their growers and ensure wheat remains a relevant crop on Illinois farms.”