The PBFA Policy team has been working tirelessly to increase the visibility and impact of the plant-based foods industry with key decision-makers in Washington, D.C.. That is why, just last week, PBFA’s new Senior Director of Policy Marjorie Mulhall was joined by Federal Policy Consultant Bev Paul, and Associate Director of Member Relations Maddie Segal – as well as several representatives from member companies Danone, Oatly, The Planting Hope Co., and Impossible Foods – to meet with congressional offices and federal agencies in Washington D.C..
These meetings were multi-pronged, with members and staff advocating both for congressional legislation as well as federal support of the plant-based foods industry. The wide variety of perspectives shared from our industry presented congressional and federal staff with a united position: Plant-based foods deserve a seat at the table in state and federal policy. This day of advocacy represented a crucial opportunity to make the plant-based industry’s voice heard on Capitol Hill, with PBFA’s own members and staff taking the lead to engage critical decision-making stakeholders.
Advocating for the industry’s legislative priorities
The initial round of meetings took place within congressional offices, and were aimed to inform congressional leaders of the industry’s legislative needs. The Policy team emphasized support of the recently introduced PLANT Act, a piece of legislation that “seeks to provide more opportunities for farmers producing ingredients used in plant-based foods, support food companies in their transformative work, and bolster USDA efforts to promote the export of plant-based foods.” The PLANT Act is not only beneficial to our industry, but, with government support, can offer crucial assistance to rural farming communities that will increase the American food system’s competitive edge on a global scale. PBFA and our members have proudly championed this legislation since its introduction; these endorsements, along with a reaffirmation that the passing of this legislation would be mutually beneficial for the U.S. government and the industry, were clearly communicated as the Policy team’s first priority.
Another key topic of discussion within the congressional offices was the DAIRY PRIDE Act: a piece of counter-legislation that poses a notable threat to our industry. The DAIRY PRIDE Act aims to limit plant-based milk companies’ ability to use “milk” terminology on the false premise that consumers are confused, running counter to the draft FDA guidance published earlier this year. PBFA and our members continued to defend the intelligence of the consumer, and made clear that the plant-based milk category’s contributions to the overall market share of the milk industry have grown significantly in recent years, indicating that consumers are demonstrating loyalty to plant-based milk and are not confused as the dairy industry claims they are. Overall, these meetings were profoundly productive and provided our organization and its ambassadors with a significant opportunity to build awareness and amplify PBFA’s legislative priorities in the nation’s Capitol.
The need for plant-based representation in government-funded food assistance programs
The Policy team’s next round of meetings were with key USDA staff who define the standards for foods served in school food programs, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman Infants, and Children (WIC), among other procurement programs. The focus of these meetings was to advocate for the inclusion of plant-based foods in procurement for federal food assistance programs. Our industry’s success coupled with our organization’s policy work have long made clear the need for consumers and benefactors of governmental assistance programs to be able to choose food that aligns with their dietary and/or cultural needs and values. As consumers increasingly prioritize health and sustainability when making food decisions, the U.S. government is positioned to lead the way and include plant-based foods in decision-making and menu-setting, especially in procurement programs, where participants already often have limited food options to begin with. This meeting was successful, emphasizing the federal needs of the plant-based food industry, raising critical awareness, and highlighting the opportunity and demand for more plant-based food representation in our government-funded food programs.
Overall, this day was a resounding success, and a wonderful opportunity for PBFA staff to connect with our ever-valuable members, who represent our industry’s success and bring an indispensable voice to the table. PBFA’s policy team is thrilled to continue elevating the industry’s influence and political power, and chasing a level playing field for plant-based foods. Our industry’s growing consumer demand for plant-based food products paired with our planet’s demand for a more resilient, diverse food system will continue to bring PBFA back to the nation’s Capitol until our industry’s priorities are realized and we always have a seat at the table.