Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) on Dec. 11 recognized Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) as the next Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate for safeguarding access to dietary supplements. Heinrich's agreement to take on this role was communicated at a meeting at Hatch's office attended by all three senators and representatives of several dietary supplement trade associations including American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) President Michael McGuffin.
For several years, AHPA has been working to build new relationships in the U.S. Congress to fill the gaps that will be created upon the retirements of Harkin and Hatch, each of whom has served as a long-standing ally and champion of this industry for more than 20 years.
Harkin, who delivered his farewell speech in the Senate this morning, is completing a storied career with a consistent focus on issues of concern for the industry including better nutrition in school lunch programs, attention to complementary and integrative medicine, support for organic agriculture, and unending advocacy for properly regulated dietary supplements.
Hatch, who has been relentless in his work to ensure ready and informed access to supplement products, is about to take on a very prominent role as chair of the Finance Committee in the next Congress.
Heinrich was elected as the junior senator of New Mexico in November 2012. Previously, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives for New Mexico's First Congressional District from 2009 to 2012 and on the Albuquerque City Council from 2003 to 2007, including one term as city council president in 2006.
Thanks to the relationship that was fostered by AHPA and AHPA's New Mexico members over many years, Heinrich is keenly aware of the important role that the supplement community plays in his home state. Shortly after his successful election to the U.S. Senate, AHPA invited Heinrich to attend Expo West and introduced him to the herbal and natural products industry.
In 2013 Heinrich became the first Senator to join the Congressional Dietary Supplements Caucus since Hatch and Harkin initially founded the caucus.
"We cannot expect our Senatorial champions' roles to be easily filled and AHPA is committed to building more good relationships in the Congress to protect us from our few critics there," said McGuffin. "But we can also take a minute to acknowledge that it has been AHPA's leadership that has gained us one new friend—and a friend that our longtime champions also now clearly recognize as our next-generation standard bearer."