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What's next for Sens. Harkin, Heinrich and the Natural Products Association?What's next for Sens. Harkin, Heinrich and the Natural Products Association?

The Natural Products Association's annual event in Washington, D.C., included more than the typical lobbying as the association marked one senator's dedication to the natural products industry and announced a new leader for the business group.

Christine Kapperman

April 16, 2014

3 Min Read
What's next for Sens. Harkin, Heinrich and the Natural Products Association?
<p>Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, speaks during the Natural Products Association Natural Products Day reception as President Roxanne Green looks on.</p>

The Natural Products Association marked beginnings and endings last week as it celebrated leadership, legacy and hope.

The association bestowed Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, with a Congressional Champion Lifetime Achievement Award on April 8, capping a day that started with the rousing words of Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., that pumped up the gathering of 100 natural products business leaders in Washington, D.C., for the association’s annual lobby day. Meanwhile, NPA leadership quietly changed group management from John Shaw to Daniel Fabricant, a Food and Drug Administration director and former association employee.  

Passing the supplement legislation torch

As the Natural Products Association conferred Sen. Harkin with the lifetime achievement award, he pointed to the “comfort” he feels leaving natural products industry leadership on the Hill to heir apparent Heinrich. A chief Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act author and a Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus leader, Harkin is serving his last year in the U.S. Senate.


Earlier in the day, Heinrich shared his personal interest in health as a co-op member, as well as his state’s rich history with food and health—from Indian herbal traditions to Pueblo irrigation systems to today’s strong agricultural roots and values of local and individual control.

A sea change is happening in America’s approach to health, Heinrich said. “(We’re) not changing things after the fact, but embracing wellness.”

It’s a message Harkin has carried for years, noting his involvement in making prevention and wellness part of the Affordable Health Care Act. The idea, he said, is to “transform and have true health care focus on health and eating.”

“I’ve been taking supplements for a long time and look pretty good,” he said. “I feel good too.”

So while Harkin may be retiring, he said he doesn’t plan to retire from the fight to allow consumers the choice for “health, wellness, natural supplements and to take care of their own health care.”

Heinrich said he’s at the ready to rally for the supplement industry and against bad actors in the business, noting they are the exception, not the rule, in this space.

Building on Natural Products Association direction

Meanwhile, a surprise passing of leadership occurred quietly as the NPA board announced Fabricant’s hiring as executive director and CEO. He starts April 21.

President Roxanne Green called the replacement an easy choice, one that arose from all on the executive committee when Shaw submitted his resignation.

Past President Jeff Wright said Fabricant’s hiring “builds on where we are, the influence we’ve regained.”

Both cited Fabricant’s past with the Natural Products Association as a benefit that resonates with retailer membership.

What’s next?

What would you like to see next from the Natural Products Association?

The next steps, the next issues and next discussion among the industry likely will get bigger—and louder. Before leaving for Capitol Hill, some NPA members raised points about issues not on the day’s agenda, particularly the rising concern about defining natural.

An impassioned NPA member gave a rousing rallying cry referring back to the passage of DSHEA and looking forward: “Either we make a stand as a group or we are going to get run over by the GMAs,” supplement maker Lester Burks said referring to moves being made by the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

The day after natural products business leaders lobbied for a right-to-know bill introduced last year, Reps. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., introduced a GMA-backed bill that would define natural and outlaw state right-to-know rules.

About the Author(s)

Christine Kapperman

Senior Content Director, New Hope Network

As the senior content director at New Hope Network, Christine Kapperman combines her 20-year journalism background with her passion for business to cover the natural products industry for newhope.com and Natural Foods Merchandiser magazine. She also led content at worldteanews.com. She loves tracking (and tasting) trends as she shares what’s next to show up in cups, plates and in pantries across the United States.

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