One of the key functions of the Michigan Wheat Program under Public Act 232 is to explore marketing opportunities for Michigan-grown wheat and there are many. Michigan is a very unique climate for growing wheat.

Why Wheat

The rich farmland and natural rainfall of the Great Lakes region, makes Michigan an optimum location for filling America’s breadbasket. The state is home to thousands of farms that raise wheat along with corn, soybeans and other row crops like dry beans and sugar beets.

Michigan grows winter soft red and white wheat, most of which is milled locally and baked into consumer foodstuffs in the Great Lakes region by such well-known companies as Chelsea Milling owner of the Jiffy brand, General Mills, Kellogg Company, King Milling, Knappen Milling, Kraft Foods, Mennel Milling, Mondelez International owner of Nabisco and other brands, Post Foods and Star of the West.

Where wheat is grown

Weather conditions such as an early winter or a late fall harvest of corn and soybeans, often result in less wheat being planted. Worldwide market pricing and a farmers’ crop rotation also impact the amount of wheat planted.

On average, farmers plant slightly more than 500,000 acres of wheat annually. In 2016, a record production year, farmers harvested 51 million bushels of wheat from 610,000 acres. The five-year average production figure is closer to 39 million bushels.

Wheat farmers in the Great Lakes state established a new record yield in 2016, of 89 bushels of wheat per acre! That’s well above the national average yield of 55.3 bushels per acre. There are six different classes of wheat, and several varieties of each class are grown for different markets and uses. Michigan produces both red and white winter wheat.

Michigan’s top-five wheat producing counties are Huron, Sanilac, Lenawee, Tuscola and Saginaw.

From the beginning, the Michigan Wheat Program has been guided by those involved in this unique and special industry. Visionary farmers, millers and end-users of Michigan wheat all came together to develop a strategic plan for the organization. All of them see that Michigan-grown soft white and red winter wheat have several key marketing advantages including:

  • Manufacturers’ preference for Eastern wheat’s distinctive profile;
  • Proximity to market and to large value-added processors in Michigan and the Great Lakes region;
  • Decreasing acreage elsewhere in the Eastern US;
  • Michigan’s historic strength in wheat yields per acre; and
  • Advent of boutique and artisan distillers and brewers looking for locally-grown grains.

In addition, markets are seeking wheat with enhanced nutrition, better traits for food manufacturing, good milling quality and other traits. The MWP board’s investments in wheat breeding research seek to help meet this need, as well as needs of the farmers.