Washington, D.C.—On April 6, retailers, manufacturers, suppliers and other stakeholders gathered in the nation’s capital to promote the natural products industry’s interests to elected officials for Natural Products Day, organized and hosted by the Natural Products Association (NPA). High on the agenda for discussion were the Tax Equity for Meal Replacements and Supplements Act, which the industry supports, and the Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) Abuse Reduction Act, which it opposes. Attendees also educated lawmakers on the extensive regulations that govern the supplement industry.
After attendees were briefed on important issues and given advocacy training in the morning, meetings with local state and district lawmakers took place, with the goal of educating them on regulatory issues affecting the industry, and informing them of the health and economic benefits the industry provides. John Gay, executive director and CEO of NPA, described the benefits of this of type civic action. “Study after study in the government affairs area affirms that face to face meetings between constituents and lawmakers is the most effective way to get the message across,” he says.
The Tax Equity legislation, which attendees advocated, would allow Flexible Spending Account dollars to be put towards the purchase of supplements and meal replacements that carry permitted health claims. The DHEA legislation would render the hormone a controlled substance not for sale to minors, which would not benefit consumers, according to NPA.
This year’s event culminated with an evening reception on Capitol Hill, where attendees mixed with legislators and their staffs, and NPA presented its Congressional Champion Award to legislators including Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah among several others. “For a lot of folks who don’t get the chance to be in Washington every day, meet a senator, be up on Capitol Hill, it’s a very neat experience,” Gay says.
Also taking place alongside Natural Products Day was the first industry briefing of the Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus (DSC) since the beginning of the 112th congress. NPA, along with the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) and United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA) hosted a packed room of 60 House and Senate staffers for an educational session on the safety and widespread usage of dietary supplements.
According to Gay, the follow through on Natural Products Day includes further correspondence between attendees and legislators, feedback on issues raised on Natural Products Day, as well as invitations to local legislators to take an educational visit to retailer’s stores. The NPA encourages those who could not attend to visit their Web site (www.npainfo.org) to find ideas and tools for industry lobbying, including writing templates for contacting elected officials. “Ideally we’d like them to build and maintain a relationship with their member of congress, so that if that office gets a question on supplements or other natural products, or a bill comes up, they’ll call their constituent or the NPA,” he says.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, June 2011 (online 4/14/11)