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FSA/HSA legislation, FDA oversight among issues raised on Capitol Hill by NPA members

Last month, the Natural Products Association’s members had the opportunity to descend on Capitol Hill for the association’s annual legislative fly-in day. For those who may not be familiar, fly-in day is one of the many benefits NPA provides to its members.

This one-day event is a unique opportunity for attendees to meet with others who understand their goals and share their stories with congressional lawmakers. NPA’s fly-in day offers a multitude of benefits including:

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• Networking: Fly-in trips provide business leaders with a platform to network with other business professionals in the dietary supplement industry. By attending fly-in day, attendees gain access to a network of business leaders, government officials and more.

• Learning opportunities: This event provides attendees with learning opportunities on various topics, including policy issues, industry trends and best practices.

• Exposure: As the marquee event for NPA, this event allows attendees exposure to new markets, customers and partners.

• Access to key decision-makers: When visiting Capitol Hill through the NPA, you gain access to key decision-makers and administration officials, including members of Congress and leaders of federal agencies.

Fly-in day participants came from all over the country — representing over 30 states — and attended nearly 150 individual meetings.

If you’ve been in Washington, D.C., long enough, you’ve probably heard the old saying, “There are three types of jobs in the nation’s capital: those working for the government, those advocating before the government and those in the military.” There are over 6,000 trade associations representing every industry sector and even state-level governments advocating on behalf of the interests of their constituents. For example, the National Association of Realtors had 14,000 attendees for its fly-in day.

While having nearly 100 participants is fantastic, as an industry we must continue to grow our footprint on Capitol Hill. This will require growth in attendance for our fly-in day, along with participation in other NPA events that focus on advocating on behalf of the dietary supplement industry.

This is why our association significantly emphasizes advocacy, political fundraising and fly-in day. It is one of the most critical opportunities for our members to connect with lawmakers to help drive policies that help grow our industry. Attending fly-in day couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is bring a positive attitude, your story and comfortable walking shoes.

Dietary supplement stakeholders sharing their real-world experience is essential in helping members of Congress and their staff understand the potential impact of various issues. While attendees enjoyed a large spread of breakfast foods and coffee, they received a refresher on what to expect to encounter during their legislative meetings and specific points of interest to underscore. The breakfast session allowed everyone to get their questions answered about the current and potential legislation that impacts their business. This year, attendees had several different priorities they focused on during their Hill meetings.

They urged their members of Congress to co-sponsor The Dietary Supplement Access Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation allowing dietary supplements to be eligible for reimbursement through pre-tax savings plans such as health savings accounts (HSA), health reimbursement arrangements (HRA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA). Allowing consumers to be reimbursed for purchasing dietary supplements through pre-tax savings plans dedicated toward health and wellness incentivizes them to continue using supplements as part of their wellness routines.

Attendees also spoke with lawmakers about the importance of strengthening the Food and Drug Administration’s implementation of DSHEA (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994) and criticized the agency’s reorganization of the Office of Dietary Supplement Programs (ODSP). Our attendees understood that FDA has failed to use regulations and guidance within its statutory authority to modernize oversight of the dietary supplement industry for too long.

Additionally, in light of the agency’s recently proposed reorganization, participants spoke at length as to the level of uncertainty they feel about deprioritizing dietary supplement regulation, creating a “super office” that would oversee the regulation of food additives and dietary supplements, despite the statutory firewall between the two.

Participants raised the importance of strengthening the dietary supplement supply chain with lawmakers. It’s no secret that negotiations between the United States and China will have long-lasting effects on the industry, and it is vital to our long-term growth that Congress passes legislation aimed at strengthening and increasing the manufacturing of dietary supplements in the U.S.

Finally, advocates warned Congress about the dangers of legislation we expect to be reintroduced requiring mandatory product listing for dietary supplements. During the last MPL debate, Congress heard from several different perspectives on this issue, including NPA members, and thankfully decided not to move forward with the legislation. During fly-in day, members emphasized several vital points, including the fact that FDA has a robust regulatory framework to understand what supplements are sold and who is selling them. This includes the NIH (National Institutes of Health) Dietary Supplement Label Database, home to over 186,000 voluntarily submitted labels.

During our closing reception, attendees heard from Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), who highlighted the importance of participating in events like NPA’s fly-in day. NPA’s chairman of the board of directors, Mark LeDoux, also expressed his gratitude for everyone’s attendance, stressing that members who engage in advocacy build valuable skills that move the industry forward. Speaking with many of the first-time attendees, it was inspiring to hear the excitement in their voices and the personal responsibility felt in educating lawmakers about the importance of the industry and how we make a difference in the lives of millions of Americans.

People who work in a highly regulated industry like dietary supplements need a reliable way to make and maintain contacts, keep themselves up to date on the latest news and legislative and regulatory developments, and build their business’s reputation in the industry and community. Being involved in the Natural Products Association — and, equally important, our fly-in day — are excellent ways to accomplish all these goals.

Working with NPA allows executives and their businesses to gain the backing of an experienced and established organization that can work with them to help them grow. As an association, providing member benefits such as fly-in day allows us to achieve our goal of promoting and improving the industry while offering opportunities for engagement and growth. If you’ve never attended an NPA event such as our fly-in day, I highly encourage you to reach out, and we’d be more than happy to help you join us in the policymaking process.




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