Meeting in Phoenix for the group’s annual convention in late October, the North American Millers’ Association grappled with a complex array of problems, including compliance with the still poorly-defined Food Safety Modernization Act, anxiety over the reliability of transportation and questions over proposed updates to rules governing field trials for bioengineered grains, including wheat. Against this backdrop, the millers recently completed for the first time since the 1990s a new strategic plan. This was a valuable exercise given the change that has occurred within the organization and across the entire industry.

Notwithstanding the many challenging issues facing milling, macro indicators for the industry generally remain positive. Flour production in the most recent quarter was up 1.1% versus the same period a year earlier, and the operating rate of flour mills bumped upward nicely from the second quarter. The latest financial disclosures from large publicly-traded milling companies (or their parents) suggest a continued favorable operating environment for the industry.

These positives seem even more remarkable given the unrelenting criticisms leveled at flour-based foods. No wonder that the new NAMA plan puts such a heavy emphasis on communicating the simple but powerful message of “the link between grains and goodness.” Finding the most effective way of transmitting this straightforward message has never been as challenging or as important.