Which would be better for the natural products industry: an Obama or a McCain presidency? Political intelligence from our representatives at the Natural Products Association (NPA) in Washington, D.C. says that either a McCain or an Obama administration is likely to be less favorable to the natural products industry than the present administration.

Barack Obama, the Senator from Illinois, is a close colleague of fellow Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. Durbin has tried many times—and still wishes—to undo DSHEA, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, the federal law that allows natural products retailers and manufacturers to sell and communicate the benefits of dietary supplements. As President, we can expect Obama to take Durbin’s phone calls and to listen to Durbin’s agenda because of their common Illinois link.

Senator Joe Biden (D-Del), Obama’s pick for Vice President, however, did receive the Natural Product’s Association Industry Champion Award for co-sponsoring with Orrin Hatch the 2003 legislation that prevented dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA, and not to be confused with DSHEA) from being listed under the Controlled Substances Act. John McCain has been involved in hearings on sport-supplement abuse and has chided the industry in the past.

David Seckman, CEO and executive director of NPA, notes that both candidates have a history of not being supportive of the natural products industry. With either one, “We have our work cut out for us,” Seckman says, continuing, “Any new president will appoint a new FDA Commissioner and a new Secretary of HHS,” respectively the governmental offices that oversee the major regulatory agencies for our industry.

While the Commissioner and Secretary are powerful people, and will set the tone and agenda for their agencies, they must respond to the will of U.S. citizens. Any of you who has attended Natural Products Day in Washington, D.C. each spring, knows that we can best protect DSHEA through face-to-face meetings with Congressional aids and staff, Congressmen and women, and Senators, to educate them on the safety, efficacy, and affordability of natural products.

Establishing a personal relationship with our representatives and making our voice heard is our best insurance that DSHEA will remain intact, and that we will continue to be able to do business.

So, whichever candidate you pull the lever for on Tuesday, November 4th, Wednesday, November 5th will be another business day. You and your competitors will turn the key on the locks of your doors, and you will have to win customers, just as you did the day before.

With a new, less-favorable administration in the White House in 2009, you may want to consider attending Natural Products Day in Washington, D.C., so mark your calendar for March 24. Washington is beautiful in the spring, with the cherry blossoms blooming, and it is a real boost to join your industry peers on Capitol Hill in support of our great industry. Whether Obama or McCain sits in the White House, our best strategy is to exercise our right as citizens to speak up! WF

Jay Jacobowitz, who also writes WholeFoods’ Merchandising Insights column, is the president of Retail Insights, a Brattleboro, VT-based consulting service. A frequent speaker at industry events, Jay is next speaking at Expo East in Boston, MA about “Store Layout” on October 15 and “Retailer to Retailer: Learning From One Another” on October 18. He will be available at Booth 979. Next, he will speak at NPA Northwest in Seattle, WA (October 31 through November 2) and will be available at Booth 510. To contact Jay, telephone (800) 328-0855 or e-mail jay@retail-insights.com.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, October 2008