Attendance at Annual Lobbying Event Once Again Exceeds Previous Year’s
WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 17, 2006) – On Tuesday, April 4, 2006, more than 170 natural product industry stakeholders from 36 states and the District of Columbia gathered on Capitol Hill for the National Nutritional Foods Association’s (NNFA) ninth annual lobbying event, Natural Foods Day, which once again exceeded the previous year’s attendance. NNFA members representing every component of the natural products industry educated members of Congress and their aides about NNFA’s legislative priorities, each of which would help increase consumers’ access to — and awareness of — safe, effective, and affordable natural products.
“I’m proud that NNFA members continue to recognize — in greater numbers every year — the importance of educating their lawmakers about the natural products industry,” said David Taylor, president of NNFA. “It’s heartening to know that despite the demands of their stores and businesses, NNFA members are willing to come to Washington to make sure members of Congress understand the importance of our industry to the health of all Americans.”
As in past years, the event consisted of an early morning briefing session and breakfast before participants adjourned to attend pre-arranged meetings with various congressional leaders. The day concluded with a reception honoring NNFA’s seven Congressional Champions.
At the morning session, advocacy expert Stephanie Vance, a former Capitol Hill chief of staff, provided an insider’s perspective on how to effectively communicate with members of Congress and their staff. During the training session, Vance helped to put first-time participants at ease by familiarizing them with the advocacy process and conducted role-playing exercises the participants found both fun and informative.
“When [Vance] got up to give us the real skinny, you really knew what you were getting into,” said second-time attendee Karen Clarke, a Connecticut manufacturer. “It was wonderful, because we understand what power the young staffers have over the representatives and over the legislation. The role playing was fun and I learned things from each member’s participation.”
After Vance’s presentation, NNFA’s Executive Director and CEO David Seckman, along with association lobbyists Jack Martin and Ed Long, updated participants on the industry’s most pressing legislative issues (see page 4 for a recap of these issues) and provided tips on how to communicate the industry’s priorities effectively.
Attendees then spent the afternoon in meetings with lawmakers and key staff members from their districts and states. During their meetings with House members, the constituents asked legislators to support Rep. Chris Cannon’s Dietary Supplement and Healthy Meal Replacement Tax Parity Act, H.R. 1545, which would ensure that natural products are given the same tax treatment as drugs and over-the-counter medications. The participants also asked lawmakers to oppose the H.R. 3156, Dietary Supplement Access and Awareness Act, which would impose standards for supplements exceeding those for drugs, and H.R. 3937, a bill to ban the safe, effective supplement DHEA.
In their meetings with senators, NNFA members asked lawmakers to support S. 2592, which would raise the standards for school lunch programs, and S. 1546, a bill that would allow disadvantaged individuals to purchase dietary supplements with their food stamps. The members also emphasized the importance of defeating S. 1137, a bill that, like its House counterpart, would prohibit DHEA.
The meetings proved to be productive and enjoyable for NNFA members and for first-time participants, the dialogue with congressional members and their staff reinforced the importance of grassroots advocacy.
“We’re the leading democracy on the planet and you can actually get an appointment with your representative in government,” said retailer Christine Cooney Breeding. “I now know that you can’t complain about the process if you’re not willing to take part in it.”
The evening concluded with a reception featuring the presentation of NNFA’s 2006 Congressional Champion Awards. On hand to receive their awards were Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), and Chris Cannon (R-Utah). Unable to attend, but also recipients of awards were Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Reps. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.).
At the ceremony, several of the honorees lauded NNFA for its effective leadership in ensuring the vitality of the natural products industry. In his acceptance speech, Sen. Harkin succinctly stated the important role NNFA members play.
“I have often said that we have a sick care system in this country, not a health care system,” said Harkin. “NNFA members are on the cutting edge of a new paradigm – keeping people healthy.”
NNFA (www.nnfa.org) is the nation's largest and oldest non-profit organization dedicated to the natural products industry. NNFA represents 9,600 retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of natural products including foods, dietary supplements, and health and beauty aids.
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