Government Relations for Dietary Supplements and Functional Foods

Julia Gustafson, VP Government Relations, CRN discusses how the association effectively engages with legislators.

Ensuring the best representation from legislators—both federally and in the states—requires thoughtful strategy and nuanced tactics. 

Successful government relations are built on a foundation of credibility. "Everybody’s got a story to tell, so backing up the story with data is essential," Ms. Gustafson advises. For example, as CRN advocates for FSAs and HSAS to allow consumers to purchase supplements with pre-tax dollars, our health care cost savings study data supports use of specific dietary supplements in targeted populations not only for health benefits, but also for significant savings in societal health care costs. An updated report, "Supplements to Savings" is now available with data looking at 2022–2030.

Bipartisan support is critical. Particularly in these highly charged times, whether supporting or opposing legislation, it’s important to build a bipartisan coalition so your position does not fall victim to the politics. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA)—landmark legislation that set the stage for the supplement industry’s remarkable growth was passed in 1994 with overwhelming bipartisan support. Today, legislation with the potential to elevate Americans’ health and wellness—such as bills pertaining to CBD—addresses issues that both red and blue can agree on and CRN is actively reaching out to legislators on both sides of the aisle. 

Connecting your cause with constituent concerns is key. There’s a reason for that old saying, “all politics is local.” Legislators need to know how proposals will affect their constituents. CRN engages its member companies with their members of Congress to put real faces to the economic data showing the supplement industry’s positive impact  in each congressional district on things like  jobs, wages and taxes. "In addition, we take the time to understand what’s  driving proposed  legislation—especially if we oppose it—so we can provide constructive, useful feedback rather than invalidating constituent concerns and shutting down dialogue," Ms. Gustafson notes. 

Effective government relations is a long game. Neither reputations nor relationships are built overnight—ongoing investment in both is a must. CRN takes a multi-faceted approach. CRN actively engages with key groups like the Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus. Ms. Gustafson adds, "We pay attention to the composition of the appropriate congressional committees of jurisdiction over legislation that affects us and maintain awareness of changing leadership to ensure we stay connected with key congressional offices—even as elected officials turn over."

CRN Members: Sign up for CRN's Government Relations Committee for the latest, most detailed updates on our efforts federally and in the states.