Fabricant: It's imperative industry become involved—and stay involved—in political process

By Daniel Fabricant, PhD, Executive Director and CEO, Natural Products Association

- Last updated on GMT

Fabricant: It's imperative industry become involved—and stay involved—in political process

Related tags: Natural products, Dietary supplement

In the year since I’ve been back in the natural products industry, I’ve made it my mission to turn the tide on the political apathy that has plagued the industry in recent years, and to make it clear that whether you like it or not, if you’re in this industry, you’re in politics. That reality has been unavoidable in recent months, as the natural products industry has endured several repeated attacks from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

And now with other state attorneys general asking Congress to investigate herbal supplements and demand more regulatory oversight from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the battle rages on. Now more than ever, the sector needs leaders to come to its defense and demonstrate both the economic and health value of natural products.

It’s time for the industry to gather strength, as it has been known to do in the past, and face these threats head on. At the Natural Products Association’s (NPA) Natural Products Day​, the industry’s premier advocacy event, more than 100 industry stakeholders did just that, visiting Capitol Hill to educate legislators and demonstrate leadership for their businesses. Natural Products Day garnered a 30% increase in participation from recent years, including a diverse group of retailers, suppliers, and other industry members. More than 90 meetings with congressional members and staff were held. NPA works year-round to build relationships and secure meetings with lawmakers during this event. For me, our lobby day truly showcases the influence NPA has secured for the industry and our continuing growth in the advocacy arena.

There was a level of excitement in the air, as attendees met with lawmakers and their staff, highlighting the health and economic benefits of natural products, and discussing current issues the industry is facing, such as the overly burdensome requirements from the Federal Trade Commission; defending the definition of organic as non-GMO in any pending legislation; holding the FDA accountable for dietary supplement regulation; and potential cosmetics legislation. Attendees also educated legislators and congressional staff extensively on the situation with the New York attorney general and what steps NPA is taking to protect industry members and consumers.

Building bridges with Congress

Hatch at NPA Day 2015
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch confirmed his commitment to the natural products industry during a reception at the end of NPA day March 24. He told members of NPA that he would support them as long as he could.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, also brought an added energy when he addressed attendees at the evening reception, speaking about the recent challenges to the industry and his efforts to fight misinformation and attacks. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., expressed his support for the industry at the reception as well. NPA’s special legislative guests weren’t just at Natural Products Day – the evening prior, NPA’s Political Action Committee hosted a reception featuring a visit from Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and NPA’s Board of Directors meeting included Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., who stopped by to share his support. Cultivating champions such as these is exactly why we do the work we do on Capitol Hill. The more supporters we have in Congress, the better our industry will be protected. With a new Congress in session and our staunchest champions either retired or set to retire, it’s pivotal that we grow more allies in Washington.

While the industry displayed impressive force at Natural Products Day, many businesses still sit by on the sidelines thinking that advocacy is not their concern. However, the truth is we need everyone’s voice if we are to grow as an industry. With strength in numbers and strong leadership, lawmakers will understand the effects of legislation, the science behind natural products, the health benefits consumers reap from a wide variety of products, and the need for oversight and regulation to be carefully balanced.

If natural products business leaders do not speak up now, the consequences to the industry and their businesses may be dire and irreversible. Misinformation and falsehoods are being used to malign products that support the health of hundreds of millions of Americans. Only with loud and widespread engagement across the industry can we fight these attacks.

Tell the story of your business

NPA Day on the Hill 2015
More than 100 members of NPA gathered in Washington, D.C., March 24 to talk with their legislators about the issues that are impacting the natural products industry.

The first step to advocacy engagement is to realize your business has a story to tell, encompassing the consumers who ultimately value and purchase your products to the local, regional, and national economic benefit of the business you run. Consider how laws and regulations can either support or endanger the success of your natural products business. 

With developments continuing to evolve with the New York attorney general’s investigation and other threats to the industry, it’s more important than ever that the industry’s grassroots base band together to put a stop to these efforts. As you have heard, NPA mobilized the grassroots earlier this year in response to New York attorney general Schneiderman. Since February, we have seen thousands of emails, tweets and calls directed to Schneiderman, questioning his regulatory authority to take supplements off shelves and demanding he release his study data. Even if you’ve already participated in these efforts, it’s imperative that you continue to do so at www.NPAinfo.org/grassrootsaction​. This is the industry that helped get the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act signed into law; stopped the McCain amendment from passing; and prevented the FTC from having extensive authority over the industry. The time is now to ensure the same kind of success for the industry.

NPA is fighting the battles to defend natural products on Capitol Hill, in the halls of the FDA, and now even in the offices of state attorneys general. But we cannot do it alone and our voice needs broad industry support. If now is not the time, when the sector is under attack, then when will be the time to stand up for natural products and the businesses you have worked so hard to build?

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