Industry members attend
rally on Capitol Hill.
"The immediate purpose of the rally is twofold: to ensure that S. 722 is opposed and that S. 1538 is supported and potentially picks up co-sponsors," said David Seckman, executive director and chief executive officer of the National Nutritional Foods Association.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, sponsored S. 1538, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is its co-sponsor. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., introduced S. 722; it has since been co-sponsored by Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa,
sponsored S. 1538.
"Our longer-term goal is educating and creating a base of support for broader dietary supplement issues that may arise in the future," Seckman said. "While sending letters and making phone calls has definitely made an impact, by far the most effective way to communicate with legislators is through in-person visits.
"And I hope [the rally is] emblematic of future events because we'll be facing new and potentially greater challenges from Congress in 2004."
The rally was sponsored by Virgo Publishing; co-sponsored by Cognis Nutrition and Health, Draco Natural Products, GNC, Natrol, New Hope Natural Media, NOW Foods and Reliance Vitamins; and endorsed by the National Nutritional Foods Association, American Herbal Products Association, Utah Natural Products Alliance and Citizens for Health.
Karl Riedel, Jon Beninger
and David Seckman.
"It is great to see so many associations, companies and individuals get behind this effort," said Jon Benninger, director of business development at Virgo Publishing. "We are all in this fight together."
A meeting about the legislative threats facing the industry and a how-to-lobby session given by Washington-based Capitol Associates started the day. Then the lobbying began.
"I was astounded to see how few members and staff on Capitol Hill were familiar with our industry or were knowledgeable about the facts on DSHEA," said Fredrik M. Linder, president, New Hope Natural Media, parent company of The Natural Foods Merchandiser. "It is critically important that everyone get involved in events like Rally Day. The future of continued consumer access to dietary supplements is at risk."
Industry participants found that some members of Congress, while informed about the pending bills, had not decided on their position.
"I believe our efforts definitely had an impact, particularly on those legislators who may not have been familiar with or decided where they stand on these bills," Seckman said.
By the end of the day, participants were pleased with the effort they had made to inform their representatives about their opposition to S.722 and their support of S.1538.
"The NNFA Rally on Capitol Hill was the first step toward creating broad awareness in Washington, D.C., about DSHEA, but this is only the first step," said Mauricio Lluch, group publisher, New Hope Natural Media. "Our success, now, needs to return to grassroots efforts with our local and state representatives as Congress goes into recess. It's an opportunity for retailers to visit their representatives and have that one-on-one chat." Retailers and their customers can also voice their opinion at the Advocacy Action Center at www.nnfa.org.
"The Rally on Capitol Hill was an example of how quickly the industry can mobilize into political action," said Jim Roza, director of quality assurance for NOW Foods. "While it was wonderful to see this outpouring of support, the lesson we all should have learned from this experience is [the need for] constant vigilance. As an industry, we cannot be lulled into any false sense of security. We must become political animals and use whatever influence we have to prevent bad laws from being enacted. I would encourage everyone to mark their calendars for next year's event."
The next industry lobby event scheduled is the 7th Annual Natural Foods Day on Tuesday, March 23, in Washington, D.C.
Natural Foods Day was designed to broaden the natural products industry's base of political support. The event consists of an early morning briefing session and breakfast before participants adjourn to attend pre-arranged appointments with their federal legislators. An evening reception on Capitol Hill honoring the industry's congressional champions allows attendees to socialize with other participants, members of Congress and their staffs. The event is free and open to anyone. For more information, visit NNFA's Web site at www.nnfa.org.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 11/p. 1