By DANIEL GRANT
MENDOTA – The addition of the largest, newly built wheat mill in the U.S. three years ago east of Mendota certainly added to demand for the crop in northern Illinois and other regions of the country.
And farmers responded to increased demand and strong global prices for wheat, according to Joe Greene of Archer Daniels Midland Co. in Decatur.
Greene serves as the commercial director of milling and baking solutions for ADM Carbohydrate Solutions. He discussed the market and ADM’s state-of-the-art wheat mill in Mendota during a recent interview and private tour of the facility.
“Since we came to Mendota, we’ve truly seen an increase in wheat acres in the area. We expected that to happen and it’s following through for sure,” Greene said.
“Global prices are helping to continue to support that increase in acres,” he said. “We’re very well situated to continue to provide farmers a fantastic outlet for locally grown wheat.”
ADM’s massive wheat mill in Mendota essentially replaced a much older facility in Chicago. The new mill has the capacity to produce a whopping 3 million pounds of flour per day, equivalent to 60 semi truckloads.
The mill maintains ADM’s markets for flour from the Chicagoland area and northwest Indiana to northwest Ohio, southern Wisconsin and northeast Iowa.
The fully automated mill also features a loop track system to unload 110-car unit trains. Wheat unloaded from the trains moves on underground conveyors into the mill for testing and processing.
Nearly all the soft red wheat processed at the mill is sourced from northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. The mill’s multifaceted logistical capabilities also allow for the sourcing of hard red wheat, mostly from Kansas and Nebraska, along with spring wheat from the Dakotas and Minnesota.
“We’re supporting local farmers with about one-third of our production here on a daily basis and we continue to support other areas,” Greene said.
“Mendota is well situated in northern Illinois to have access to local soft red wheat crops as well as our unit train unloader that allows us to bring in shuttles of wheat from the Southern Plains on the hard red wheat side and from the Northern Plains on the spring wheat side.”
What is all the flour from the ADM mill used for across the upper Midwest? It depends on the wheat class and protein levels of each crop.
Flour from soft red wheat is typically used to bake items such as cakes and cookies. Flour from hard red wheat is used for breads and bagels while different blends of wheat flour are used for batterings, breadings, tortillas and frozen pizza among other items.
“It’s all about how each flour performs in the oven,” Greene said.
The mill provides farmers with other key opportunities. It produces about 22% mill feed, which goes into local markets for livestock feed.
And the unit trains which bring wheat to LaSalle County are reloaded with corn, which is shipped from northern Illinois to feed yards in destinations such as Texas and California.
“This helps maintain successful farming operations going forward,” Greene said.
Since opening the Mendota mill in 2019, ADM Milling also achieved carbon neutral status, which it passes on to consumers and farmers though sustainability programs that offer payments per acre for locally- grown crops.
(This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit FarmWeekNow.com.)