Washington, D.C. — Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, 83, a friend of the natural products industry and the longest serving GOP senator, announced in a video statement that he will not seek re-election in 2018.
“It is a huge loss to have him leaving the Senate. He has been a tireless advocate for the consumers of this industry,” said Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, in an interview with WholeFoods. “He often gets identified as a voice for the supplement industry but he comes from a state with a lot of manufacturing of supplements and with a huge population of people who use these products. He was a voice for the consumer. He’s a consumer himself. That’s what makes him so effective an advocate.”
Dan Fabricant, CEO of the Natural Products Association, applauded Hatch for his legislative accomplishments and success at garnering unanimous support for DSHEA in 1994. “You can’t point to a more prolific legislator. He’s done more for the country than anyone else in the Senate. You can’t replace someone like Sen. Hatch,” Fabricant said. “He’s still around for a year. He’s not gone yet. People should still look to him in a lot of leadership roles this year.”
Fabricant predicted Hatch would remain active in health and wellness public policy through his foundation after he retires. “We wish him the best.”
Sen. Hatch is a co-chair of the Dietary Supplement Caucus, a bipartisan congressional group of legislators, who promote discussions among lawmakers about the benefits of dietary supplements, provide tips and insights for better health and wellness, and promote research about the health care cost savings these products provide.
Mister speculated that GOP Sen. Tim Scott from South Carolina would be a likely candidate to replace Hatch on the caucus. Like Hatch, Scott has been a big advocate of supplement use, is a big user himself, and so he sees the value of the products.
Given the economic importance of the natural products economy to the state of Utah, anyone who succeeds Hatch as senator is likely to be engaged with the industry, Fabricant noted.
“Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me, that time is soon approaching,” said Hatch, in the video statement. He was first elected in 1976. “That’s why after much prayer and discussion with family and friends, I’ve decided to retire at the end of this term.”
The move opens the door to a likely run for the Utah seat by former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. President Trump had lobbied hard for Hatch to stay on.
A longtime ally of the dietary supplement industry, Hatch and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced DSHEA in the Senate in 1994, and it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 25, 1994.
Hatch will be kept busy, as he is a current sponsor of legislation that would allow supplements to be included as an acceptable category for Flexible Spending Accounts and is a supporter of including multivitamins in the SNAP program as part of the Farm Bill of 2018.
“We’ve had recent conversations with him about SARMS,” Mister added, referring to the anabolic steroid-like substances that have been surfacing in athlete testing. “We’re working with him now on language to give the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) more authority” in cases where SARMS are involved.
Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance, had this to say about Hatch.
“Over the course of his career, he has always represented the spirit of bipartisan
politics, honoring the traditions of the Senate to be courteous, thoughtful and
reflective—the ability to look for the right answer and the ability to deliver that.
“On a personal note, I had the honor of working on his staff in 1977 during his first term, and this experience deeply influenced my own career path. UNPA and the industry have also benefited from our close working relationship with Patricia Knight, who served as the senator’s health policy staff director during the DSHEA years and then later as his chief of staff. Patricia continues to advise UNPA to this day as a senior political advisor and to work with Sen. Hatch’s office to ensure the full and proper implementation of DSHEA.
“With DSHEA, Sen. Hatch worked tirelessly to ensure Americans’ rights to make their own health care choices through the wide availability of regulated dietary supplements. Consumers of these products all owe him a debt of gratitude, and generations of Americans have benefited from his deep support and commitment to help people find their own pathway to health.
“That same leadership has served his constituents in Utah well as it has led to the
development of Utah’s second-largest economic sector.
“What’s difficult for the younger cadre in the natural products industry to grasp is what a huge battle DSHEA was and how transformative it has been for our industry. What now seems normal as an encouraging and supportive environment to build and develop natural products companies was really built on Sen. Hatch’s efforts, along with those of DSHEA co-author Sen. Tom Harkin.”
“Sen. Hatch’s absence, following the retirement of Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) in 2015, will be deeply felt by the industry. But the regulatory framework Hatch helped build provides the next generation of supplement advocates in Congress with a solid foundation to ensure consumers have continued access to innovative products that improve their health and wellbeing,” added Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA).