The caucus was reconstituted via a letter sent to the Committee on House Administration on the letterhead of one of the co-chairs, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-UT. The letter was signed by the other co-chairs: Rep. Jared Polis, D-CO and Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-UT and Martin Heinrich, D-NM.
The life of the caucus has now spanned both Republican and Democratic presidencies and ascendencies in the Senate and the House. It’s a sign that the message that the trade associations have been making over the years—that the dietary supplement industry is an ethical industry and is an integral part of many local economies around the country—is taking firm root.
“The Dietary Supplements Caucus was created in 2006. There has been a lot of change since then with many members taking positions within the Administration, like Mike Pompeo of Kansas (nominated by Pres. Trump to be CIA director), retiring or losing elections,” said Mike Greene, vice president of government relations for the Council for Responsible Nutrition.
“In the past it used to take us months to reform the caucus, which has to be done each two years. This year it was relatively quick,” Greene said.
“We’ll look to get our old friends back and will be looking to get new members again, too. And we want to keep as friends some who have moved over to the Senate, like Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois,” said Dan Fabricant, PhD, CEO and executive director of the Natural Products Association.
The process of working members of Congress and their staffs is one of continual education. While the industry’s message seems to be understood by many lawmakers, the continual process of turnover among their staffs means that the message needs to be repeated. Greene said the briefings that the caucus holds are among the most effective ways the industry has to educate staff members.
“If you look at the history of the caucus, it has been the best way to educate Congress about dietary supplement issues. At these meetings we can bring in speakers, people who might experts in things like women's’ health or heart health. The meetings have averages about 40 to 50 people in attendance,” he said.
“They check their politics at the door and come in to talk about dietary supplement issues,” he said.
Fabricant said that while the rapid reformation of the caucus is a good sign, as always it’s imperative that dietary supplement stakeholders stay engaged. Complacency needs to be guarded against, and face time with lawmakers is the most effective messaging of all.
“The growth of the caucus has been steady since it has started that’s critical and we always want to get more folks. One of the things we advocate, though, is that people in the industry go to see their Representatives and Senators when they have town hall meetings in their states and districts,” he said.