The number of wheat farms in the United States has plummeted 40% in the last two decades, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

A new report shows that there were 169,528 farms growing wheat in 2002 with only 97,014 in 2022, and also more than 7% lower from 104,792 farms in 2017.

The sharpest decline is occurring in smaller farmers less than 500 acres.

The USDA ERS reported that much of the decline in US wheat production has been the result of lower area harvested, which dropped from 56m acres in 2008/09 to a low of 35.5m acres in 2022/23. Meanwhile, another major reason for the decline in wheat production and area over time is that wheat has become a rotational crop that is mixed into rotations with more profitable corn or soybean crops.

According to USDA ERS, commodity cost and return estimates have grown from $83/ac (£65/ac) to $185/ac (£145/ac) for wheat from 2017 to 2022. For corn, that same measure has more than doubled to $654/ac (£514/ac), while for soybeans it has grown to $441/ac (£346/ac) in 2022. The number of farms producing durum wheat saw the largest percentage reduction, down nearly 60% from 2002. The next largest reduction was in other spring wheat farms with a 43% reduction from 2002.

As of 2022, Kansas now accounts for 15% of all wheat farms in the United States, followed by North Dakota and Ohio while Alaska has only three recorded wheat farms.