New Year’s Resolution: Lobbying

1113

I recently heard that only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions keep them. If you’re looking for a goal you can actually accomplish, consider one that’s within your reach and beneficial to those far and wide: lobbying on behalf of your company and this industry.

The Case for Lobbying
Lobbying may seem daunting if you haven’t done it before, but industry veteran Michael Schoor, president and CEO of Essential Formulas, Inc. recently told me it’s vital.

“It’s important to tell your story,” Schoor stated. “Congress legislates and oversees the development of regulations, and if they don’t know what you’re all about, they won’t serve you well.”

Hmmm, I thought. Point taken. Even the best legislators cannot keep up with every single issue.

But, lobbying is pretty intimidating, right? Not so, says Schoor. Really, it’s just an exchange of information. Some scheduled face time to talk about your business and issues you care about. 2015 may, in fact, be a key year for industry companies to do just that. I have heard from several industry members that it’s only a matter of time before lawmakers try to re-open the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994—a thorn in the side of many people who falsely believe the law gives supplement companies a free pass to market and sell just about anything without any regulation. You know that’s false. I know that’s false. But, do lawmakers know it’s false?

wakunagaThe problem is compounded by the fact that many lawmakers on Capitol Hill today don’t really know about DSHEA or its history. Few who were heavily invested in the fight are still in office. “We’ve got nine new Republican senators coming in, and they don’t know beans about DSHEA. They know Senator Orrin Hatch, but they don’t know he was ever involved in DSHEA,” says Schoor.

Sometimes, industry champions are made, not born. And, it’s time to forge new friendships in Congress before the industry faces problems down the road. Enter lobbying.

So, what’s been your objection to lobbying in the past?

No time? No doubt about it, effective lobbying requires commitment. Schoor says he and his staff talk to Congress members four to five times a month, with a network of about 15-20 lawmakers in total. While you may not be able to meet this mark, it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. Schoor’s strategy is to work Congress members at home in Texas (such as inviting them to his plant, like he did with Senator Marco Rubio [R-FL]) or talk to members of important committees and subcommittees in Congress by inviting them to lunch.

He’s not alone. Last fall, Bluebonnet Nutrition hosted Texas Congressman Pete Olson at its facility, while retail store Country Vitamins of Corvalis, OR, allowed Congressman Peter DeFazio to campaign there, and Georgia Congressman Phil Gingrey toured the Deerland Enzymes, Inc. plant in 2012. Consider opening your doors to your lawmakers and talk to them about your business and the issues that are important to you, whether it’s GMOs or threats to DSHEA.

No money? I’ve heard before that as an industry, we contribute far less to political campaigns than other industries. It’s not a matter of individuals ponying up large sums for the whole. It’s about each company and person doing their part. Schoor says some of his employees were so inspired to help a candidate that visited his company, that they wrote checks for $50. “Lawmakers remember that,” Schoor says. “You’ve got to get the attention of members of Congress, and if you’re contributing to their campaigns, you will get their attention.”

If you still aren’t convinced your company can and should lobby, be prepared editor associate publisherfor things to happen on the Hill and in the regs that may not be so hot. If lawmakers don’t know about your business’s interests, they won’t know how to protect them.

The Natural Products Association recently announced that its annual lobbying day will be March 24, and they are looking for participants from the industry. Will you step up? WF

Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner
Editor/Associate Publisher

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, February 2015