FMCSA Responds to AHC Request

February 26, 2018

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) followed their recent meeting with AHC staff, a meeting in response to the AHC request for clarification, by releasing two documents on the existing Commercial Driver License (CDL) regulations and how those regulations impact the horse industry. The AHC is appreciative of the horse specific efforts that FMCSA have taken to quell the concerns of our recreational enthusiasts.

The guidance titled “Agricultural Exceptions and Exemptions to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Hours of Service (HOS) and Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Rules” and “Non-Business Related Transportation of Horses” explain how published FMCSA guidance provides an exception for the transportation of horses when the transportation in question is not business related (neither for compensation, nor where the driver is engaged in an underlying business related to the move). In these cases, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations do not apply, even if prize or scholarship money is offered. This includes the Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations, requirements for Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) and CDL regulations, unless required by the driver’s home state. Both documents contain example scenarios that may help horse owners better understand the regulations as they exist today.

The documents can be found on the FMCSA website at;

https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/hours-service/elds/non-business-related-transportation-horses

https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/hours-service/elds/agricultural-exceptions-and-exemptions-federal-motor-carrier-safety

The AHC will continue to pursue clarifications until the industry is satisfied that there are no unintended consequences from current CDL or ELD regulations. The AHC will take action where clarifications are not sufficient, including the continued collaboration with the entire livestock industry to get a delay in ELD enforcement.

AHC staff are still compiling the industry’s concerns and questions to forward to DOT and invite people to share their comments. Additionally, DOT has established a specific email address for agricultural specific questions at agricultural@dot.gov . This address will be used to generate a future F.A.Q. page.

The AHC encourages our members to share their questions to the DOT email as well to better highlight the existing concerns regarding the interpretation of CDL regulations. If clarifications and the F.A.Q. fail to address the concerns of our members, then the AHC will continue their efforts and pursue both legislative and regulatory solutions.

Find AHC resources at https://www.horsecouncil.org/eld-mandate-cdl-requirements/

Please contact the American Horse Council with any questions or comments.

NFS Identifies “Priority Areas” for Trail Repair, Lawmakers to Expand Scope of RNR Act

February 20, 2018

On February 16, the Department of Agriculture’s National Forest Service (NFS) unveiled a list of 15 trail areas that the agency is targeting for priority maintenance projects.  As you recall, the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (PL 114-245, aka, “Trails Act”), signed into law in late 2016, directs the NFS to take steps to reduce the backlog of federal maintenance projects by identifying those that are in most need of repair.  The Trails Act outlines a detailed program including goals and timetables by which the Department of Agriculture (USDA) will leverage private partners to clear trails long overdue for maintenance.  USDA Secretary Perdue underscored the importance of public/private partnerships supported by the horse industry by stating that the “partners and volunteers” will “address needed infrastructure work,” amounting to about $300 million in backlog maintenance. 

Jim McGarvey, who leads the American Horse Council’s Recreation, Trails and Land-Use Committee, applauds the agency’s follow-through on the Trails Act directives.  He states that “AHC was a proud supporter of the Trails Act, and we thank the Forest Service for its continued work in saving these trails for America’s horse riders.” By beginning work on “priority areas,” the agency is focusing on trails that were “impassable” and otherwise posed safety hazards to horsemen and other outdoor enthusiasts.  On February 13, NFS personnel informed AHC members and staff that the agency will continue to explore ways to leverage public/private partnerships to maintain public trails.  To view a copy of the NFS announcement, please click here:  https://www.fs.fed.us/news/releases/usda-secretary-announces-infrastructure-improvements-forest-system-trails

On the congressional front, lawmakers continue to review provisions that would expand the scope of the Recreation-Not-Red-Tape (RNR) Act (H.R. 3400), one of Congress’ most ambitious public lands initiatives.  The legislation would build on the success of the Trails Act by authorizing the Department of the Interior, through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to enter into cooperative agreements with private parties to continue to expand the role of volunteers in trail maintenance.  The House Natural Resources Committee is planning to move forward with a mark-up of H.R. 3400, possibly as early as March, to incorporate provisions of the Guide Outfitters (GO) Act into H.R. 3400.  The expanded bill would establish a variety of regulatory efficiencies, including creation of joint permits for activities that take place on lands administered by the National Park Service, NFS and BLM.  The House Natural Resources Committee postponed a mark-up planned for Wednesday, February 14, to continue to explore ways to expand the scope of the RNR Act.   

If you would like more information about federal land access issues, please contact Bryan Brendle at bbrendle@horsecouncil.org or 202-296-4031.       

AHC meets with DOT-FMCSA

February 16, 2018

The American Horse Council met with Department of Transportation (DOT), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Deputy Administrator and leadership team this week in response to a letter sent to Secretary Chao on January 28th, 2018. AHC staff went to DOT headquarters to raise the industry’s concerns and solicit clarification on how the existing regulations should be interpreted, and how those interpretations are affecting the horse industry.

The AHC expressed the industry’s interest in an increased level of stakeholder outreach, the lack of uniform interpretations nationwide, the applicability of various exemptions already in place, and the appropriate avenues for future legislative and regulatory efforts. AHC shared specific situations where rodeo, racing, competition and recreational sectors have interacted with law enforcement concerning commercial regulations.

The DOT informed the AHC that a new website specifically tailored to the agricultural industry will be unveiled in the next week, with a dedicated contact for agricultural questions, and they will begin to develop a F.A.Q. to more clearly address the questions which they receive.

The DOT members present did clarify that trailer drivers not engaged in business are not subject to Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) regulations, specifically where additional licensing is concerned. Regardless of weight, it was the interpretation of those present that going to an event that may issue prizes does not necessarily constitute commercial activity. As long as participation in the competition itself is not a component of the business with which that driver or the vehicle are regularly engaged, and expenses for said trip are not deducted for tax purposes, a CDL is not required to operate the CMV in question. Those interpretations, as are all CMV regulations, are specific to federal regulations, and state regulations may be less forgiving.

The AHC is excited about the opportunity to develop this relationship with DOT-FMCSA. The equine community should look forward to utilizing these lines of communication in the future to assure industry wide compliance and protection of individuals driving both commercially and recreationally. The AHC encourages the industry to reach out to state law enforcement to determine how best to comply with the state regulations. As additional information on this subject becomes available, the AHC will share that with our members as quickly as possible.

Visit https://www.horsecouncil.org/eld-mandate-cdl-requirements/ for AHC materials on this subject. Please contact the AHC with questions or concerns.

Congress Strikes Budget Deal in Wake of Brief Funding Lapse

February 9, 2018

Renews 3-Year Depreciation for Race Horses for FY2017

Following a procedural roadblock in the Senate that initiated a five-hour government shutdown early Friday – the briefest lapse on record and second in three weeks – Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, legislation that will fund government operations through March 23 and remove budgetary obstacles to allow longer-term FY2018 appropriations talks to move forward.  Fortunately for the horse industry, lawmakers approved an important tax incentive to restore three-year depreciation of racehorses for FY2017, allowing race horse owners to take advantage of the incentive within their FY2017 tax submission.  This will allow racehorse owners to capture tax benefits that expired in FY2016.  As you recall, the new tax law includes 100% depreciation for racehorses.  The industry will continue to advocate for the 3-year depreciation provision for 2018 and beyond. 

In addition to enacting an important capital cost recovery tool for the horse industry, the budget agreement also removes spending caps until March 2019 and authorizes nearly $300 billion in additional federal spending for the next two years.   Lawmakers hope that addressing the funding caps, effectively ending the “sequester” for the next year, will pave the way for smoother and more long-term budget negotiations through the remainder of 2018. 

To view a summary of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, please click here.

For more information related to the nation’s rapidly changing tax policies, please contact Bryan Brendle, AHC’s Director of Policy & Legislative Affairs at bbrendle@horsecouncil.org or 202-296-4031. 

AHC Encourages Horse Industry to Complete 2018 Ag Census

February 2, 2018

The USDA is a little more than one week away from the 2017 Census of Agriculture response deadline of February 5. The American Horse Council (AHC) would like to remind farmers and ranchers of the importance of their input. A national press release was sent out this week and individuals can find it as well as past census press releases at www.agcensus.usda.gov/Newsroom/ . Also on the census website are video messages from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, testimonials, the latest ads, etc. at www.agcensus.usda.gov/Partners/ .

The response rate for the census has been good across much of the United States. However, from the southeast across to Arizona, the return rate has been slightly lower compared to other parts of the country. States with lower return rates at this point are Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. It is important to note that these states have a considerable equine presence, and it is important to make the horse industry impact in these states known.

The AHC will release the National Economic Impact of the United States Equine Industry later this month, and we are fortunate to be able to have our information come out the same year as the national agricultural census. The population figures the USDA collect, while not comprehensive, are also crucial for the equine industry and the efforts of the AHC here on Capitol Hill.

Please www.agcensus.usda.gov if you have any questions.

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