On April 18, I was again privileged to represent the natural products industry at the Natural Products Association’s Lobby Day (Natural Products Day) on Capitol Hill. It was NPA's 21st annual Lobby Day, and the event entered adulthood in a big way! More than 150 industry members fanned out to visit with representatives, senators and their staffs. In addition to having come from all over the country, the attendees represented many industry segments: independent, regional and national retailers; raw material suppliers and finished goods manufacturers. We all kept busy–everyone was scheduled for at least five meetings in the Capitol, and a large contingent went to a meeting in the White House on the following day.
My day was full and fruitful. A training breakfast began around 8 a.m. in the historic Capitol Hill Club and concluded around 7 p.m. with a reception in one of the House hearing rooms. I went from meeting to meeting to meeting from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., logging over 13,000 steps and nearly 5.25 miles—and I have the blisters to prove it!
We gave the legislators and their aides the industry's positions on an array of issues, including proposed changes to food labeling laws, the potential inclusion of supplements in federal programs like WIC and the potential ability for consumers to purchase them with funds from FSA and HSA accounts, and the progress of the legislation to define the word “natural" in body care items. FDA action on NDIs and false protein label claims, as well as federal patent reform, were also on the agenda.
After the events of the day, I was able to connect with NPA CEO Dan Fabricant to get his reaction to the day. He was clearly pleased and very thankful to the industry members on the Hill. Each person not only represented his or her company but also the industry as a whole.
My takeaway from the day was a reminder of the importance that our industry needs to be active in D. C.—with two vivid examples. First, I saw people from at least nine other industries in the Capitol. These groups are not necessarily against our industry, but they are taking up limited bandwidth that congressional leaders have. We need more voices to be sure that we are heard over the din.
Secondly, as we know, our longtime industry champion Sen. Orrin Hatch is retiring. We are all looking to see who, from either party or chamber, can help fill his shoes. That became a little more personal to me when visiting with a congressional legislative director whose employer, a member of Congress who is supportive of our industry, isn't seeking re-election. The relationships that I have been able to establish in that office will need to be rebuilt starting next year. We all have to keep our members aware of issues that are important to our industry.
I hope to see you on the Hill in 2019. It is well worth it.
Bill Crawford of Crawford.Solutions has been in the natural products industry for more than 25 years as a retailer, industry analyst, educator and consultant. He can be reached at email@example.com.