RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, US — After two years of interruption because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Association of Operative Millers (IAOM) Annual Conference & Expo is back on schedule for its 126th event May 3-5 in Richmond, Virginia, US.

The 2020 show was canceled because of the pandemic and rescheduled for late August 2021. Now, IAOM is ready to meet in person again in the spring.

“We know that a lot of the international exhibitors who weren’t able to travel last year are planning to be in Richmond,” said Melinda Farris, chief executive officer of the IAOM. “We still plan to take precautions to make the event as safe as possible for all attendees and our staff. We’ll continue to monitor the situation with COVID-19 and follow all local guidelines and implement any necessary measures to maintain a safe environment at the event.

“Our registration opened in January, and we definitely have people registering for the event. There is usually a surge around the early-bird registration deadline, with some additional registrants signing up closer to the event date.” 

New this year is an educational track focusing on product quality and the first in-person Women in Milling Meet-up. This pre-conference program, from noon to 4:30 p.m. on May 2, expands on the luncheons from the 2019 and 2020 events to include leadership training and networking opportunities for women who are attending the conference, Farris said. 

Emily Bowers from Baker Equipment Manufacturers and Allieds (BEMA) will lead the session using the Insight Discovery method to help bring new levels of awareness to leadership style. It’s an evaluative tool, based on the psychology of Carl Jung, built to help people understand themselves, understand others and make the most of relationships that affect them in the workplace. 

Attendees who register for the event will take an online assessment in advance of the meeting so the program can be tailored for the those in attendance.  

Regular conference sessions kick off at 7:30 a.m. on May 3 with the keynote address given by Rasma Zvaners, policy director at the American Bakers Association. Her talk, “Challenges & Opportunities: Looking Forward as the Baking Sector,” will examine opportunities for milling and baking professions to collaborate in the post-pandemic business landscape.

Educational tracks 

As in years past, the event includes educational programming divided into different topics, including employee management, product protection, technical operations and facility management and the new product quality track. The track was added based on the board’s discussions at its most recent meeting in November, Farris said. 

“The new product quality sessions will include presentations on topics specific to the work done by the labs and quality personnel in a mill,” she said. “It’s an important part of mill operations and will be a good addition to our lineup of topics.”

Sessions in this topic will include a discussion on the significance of laboratory in food quality testing and international standards, emphasizing the importance of approved standard methods, by Dr. Hikmet Boyacioglu, KPM Analytics. Mistelle Signor, Mennel Milling, will look at the core elements of building and sustaining a strong technical leadership without quality and laboratory operations, and Sonia Scalise, Ardent Mills, will discuss the importance of the mill-lab relationship. 

In the employee management track, Jim Howard, Performance Resources, will explore and demonstrate systems and tools that make it easier to find, qualify, hire, develop and keep great people. 

Facility management includes a session on cybersecurity presented by Brandon Bohle, Interstates, that will cover practical solutions to keep a facility protected. Merzad Jamshidi, chairman of the IAOM Mideast & Africa Region, will discuss changes in consumer behavior. He will reflect on food insecurity, the opportunities for companies to pivot in light of what was learned from the pandemic, and what the future holds for the industry. 

Corey Hopkins, DEKRA, will discuss how science and technology are being used to control exposure, focusing on five key steps: challenging existing paradigms; broadening focus on exposure; pairing proven science with technology; increasing employee engagement; and tackling precursors of serious injuries and fatalities. 

The product production track includes a presentation by Dr. Christina Cowger, USDA-ARS, on minimizing fusarium and mycotoxins in cereal grains, and a session on recall basics presented by Melanie Whitman, RQA Inc. This session will discuss practical, effective ways to address the most common gaps in recall programs in order to respond to potential recalls quickly.

Darin Jensen, Panhandle Milling, will discuss the Guardian technology that provides pathogen reduction in food and non-food applications. 

The technical operations presentations include a session on the milling benefits of dry scrubbing by Dillon Phillips, Bratney Companies; cost-efficient degermination technology by Daniel Garcia, Bühler; and CRONOS chill flour milling rolls by David Balaguer, Balaguer Rolls. 

Three panel discussions are scheduled during the educational sessions, including an OSHA panel on May 4 featuring members of the IAOM Environment, Health and Safety Committee who will discuss safety related topics, including potential OSHA regulatory actions and other current affairs.

A second panel discussion on May 5 will look at employee retention and hiring, including challenges and methods being used by industry to manage the changing employee relations and compensation landscape. Later that day, a third panel discussion will feature industry professionals who specialize in packaging. They will share insights into the future of the packaging side of operations.

Full details about the educational sessions may be found at

Special events

The Allied Trades Event is at 6-9 p.m., May 4, at the Southern Railway Taphouse located in the Shockoe Slip area of Richmond. The Taphouse is known for its large beer selection, delicious food and has an arcade located on the second floor.

Safety Award recipients will be recognized during the annual breakfast 7:30-9 a.m. on May 5. Facilities that have a zero recordable injury/illness rate and have one IAOM member are eligible for the 2021 IAOM Safety Award. 

Later that evening, other award recipients will be recognized at the Annual Banquet & Awards Ceremony at the Richmond Marriott Downtown. The evening starts at 6 p.m. with a reception, followed by dinner and the program that includes the passing of the gavel to the new IAOM president, presentation of the IAOM awards and anniversary celebrations. Awards include the IAOM Milling Operative of the Year, which recognizes excellent performance by a miller. The 2021 recipient was Scott Freebern of PHM Brands.