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Government Affairs Accomplishments in 2022

February 2, 2023

Our Government Affairs program continues to expand its influence by reaching out to the current administration, Congress, and federal agencies, as well as engaging in state activities such as tracking state legislation and working to support the REHS/RS credential and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) model Food Code.

As we begin 2023, it appears that it could be a transitional year. We have a new Republican majority in Congress determining federal appropriations. A new administrator will be directing the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and FDA is creating a new deputy commissioner for its Human Foods Program to direct all the agency’s programs regarding food safety.

The Public Health Loan Forgiveness program will be implemented by Health Resources and Services Agency (HRSA), which has demonstrated a lack of understanding the concept of environmental health. CDC is undergoing a transformation following its response to the pandemic, which could or could not benefit our profession. And the new FDA Human Foods Program will coalesce all the agency’s food safety efforts under one director, including retail foods.

With all this activity, it is not the time for our Government Affairs to slow down.

We accomplished a lot in 2022, including:

  • We have 19 active policy statements on issues the association deems vital to advance the profession, including a new one on credentialing.
  • We currently have 10 position statements that express the association’s support for various efforts, including issues such as COVID-19, preparedness, food safety, water quality, and racism.
  • We posted 11 blogs that discuss actions by Congress and the federal government regarding environmental health.
  • Government Affairs hosted four webinars for NEHA members and presented at a fifth one on microenterprise home kitchen operations sponsored by the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
  • We wrote eight letters to Congress to support increased funding for NCEH within CDC, FDA food safety efforts, environmental health programs within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Housing within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • NEHA President Dr. D. Gary Brown and Executive Director Dr. David Dyjack co-signed a letter to the White House introducing the new administration to NEHA and environmental health.
  • Dr. Brown and Dr. Dyjack also co-signed a letter that recommend the investment of $7.4 billion from the American Rescue Plan to hire and train public health workers in response to COVID-19.
  • In October 2022, Dr. Brown and Tim Hatch, NEHA Region 7 vice-president, visited the offices of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), and Senator Tommy Tubberville (R-AL) to discuss federal support of state and local environmental health.
  • In May 2022, Dr. Dyjack and Ivisited the office of Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, to discuss federal support of state and local environmental health.
  • In April 2022, we sponsored a site visit for Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA) to tour a Harris-Teeter Grocery store in Williamsburg, Virginia. Representative Whitman, the only member of Congress to hold an REHS/RS credential, discussed retail food safety with the Harris-Teeter food safety staff.
  • In March 2022, NEHA board members and several NEHA members met with congressional appropriators to advocate for federal support of FDA’s food safety programs, the NCEH budget, and funding for state and local environmental health programs. We had 110 members meet with 38 congressional offices during our 2022 Hill Day.
  • We submitted policy statements before 14 state legislative committees that review state legislation regarding environmental health. We also submitted statements to the legislatures in Virginia and West Virginia on environmental health credentialing; to legislatures in Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, and New Jersey on raw milk; and legislatures in California, Iowa, Michigan, and New Jersey on food freedom.
  • In October 2022, I spoke before the North Dakota Environmental Health Association.

2023 is gearing up to be as ambitious as 2022 was. The NEHA Board of Directors will be meeting with members of Congress during our upcoming 2023 Hill Day. NEHA staff will be visiting Congress in February to discuss climate change, public health loan repayment, and the environmental health profession. The Retail Food Safety Regulatory Association Collaborative will be promoting the FDA model Food Code in several states. And we have already shared policy statements with several legislatures ahead of the 2023 legislative sessions.

We intend to bring environmental health out of the shadows and the goal of the Government Affairs program in 2023 is to make environmental health important to federal, state, and local officials.

For more information on NEHA Government Affairs, please contact Doug Farquhar.