AHC News-Summer 2017

Congress Must Address Federal Funding Before Moving to Major Agenda Items

As Congress returns from their August recess, they will immediately consider a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government beyond September 30, which marks the end of the current fiscal year.  House GOP staff predict that Congress will ultimately pass a CR to fund operations through the end of November, giving lawmakers time to negotiate final appropriations for FY 2018.   A short-term measure, lasting for 14 days, may precede the longer term resolution.   

Within the context of FY 2018 appropriations bills, the equine industry has expressed support for an equine therapy amendment to the “Make America Secure Appropriations Act” (H.R. 3219), offered by Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) in late July.  If passed in a final spending package to be negotiated between the House and Senate, the provision will increase equine therapy funding for veterans by $5 million during FY2018.  Although there is no companion provision in the Senate, congressional staff are optimistic that the equine therapy provision will remain intact within a final spending bill.     

AHC, Small Business Partners, Urge Repeal of Estate Tax

On September 1, the AHC joined the Family Business Coalition and 60 other business groups in a letter to congressional leaders urging permanent repeal of the estate tax as part of the upcoming debate on tax reform.  While AHC is reaching out to other groups to explore opportunities to engage in broader issues associated with comprehensive tax reform, calling attention to the estate tax – which is a 40% flat rate on non-exempt estates – helps illustrate the disproportionate tax burdens carried by the large number of AHC members filing as sole proprietorships, S-corporations, and other pass-through entities.  The Administration and congressional Republicans plan to move tax reform as their central legislative agenda item during the fall session. 

Although ambitious legislative efforts have stalled this year, most notably health care reform, GOP officials are hopeful that the bipartisan groundwork that characterized tax reform efforts in 2014 will provide tangible benchmarks to inform the 2017-18 process.  In 2014, for example, Congress unveiled draft legislation that would reduce corporate tax rates from 35% to 25%, while closing key tax loopholes.  With many AHC members filing as “pass-through” entities, many members could see their rates drop from as high as 44.5%, to a rate closer to the 25% benchmark as outlined in previous congresses.  Because the Administration has identified 15% as its target rate, business tax liability could drop even lower. 

EPA Solicits Public Feedback for New and Improved “Waters of the U.S.” Rule

As part of the Trump Administration’s “repeal and replace” approach to the controversial “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) regulations, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers will conduct “listening sessions” via teleconference to receive input from stakeholders.  In 2015, a federal court took the rare step of granting injunctive relief to stay the expansive regulations, per litigation by multiple agriculture and industry groups.  Federal officials will receive comments on the “repeal” proposal through September 27.  The Administration is expected to unveil its proposed replacement rule by the end of 2017. 

To help inform the process, stakeholders can participate in any of the following teleconferences:

  • September 19, 2017 –  small entities (small businesses, small organizations and small governmental jurisdictions) 
  • September 26, 2017 – environment and public advocacy
  • October 3, 2017 – conservation, e.g., hunters and anglers
  • October 10, 2017 – construction and transportation
  • October 17, 2017 – agriculture
  • October 24, 2017 – industry
  • October 31, 2017 – mining
  • November 7, 2017 – scientific organizations and academia
  • November 14, 2017 –  storm water, wastewater management and drinking water agencies
  • November 21, 2017 –  general public

For more information related to the stakeholder sessions, please go to https://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule/outreach-meetings.     

House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) Announces Retirement in 2020

During a town hall event in Utah on August 25, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) announced that he will retire in 2020, in the event he wins re-election in 2018.  The eight-term Capitol Hill veteran has served as a long time champion of land access legislation supported by the equine industry.   On July 26, Chairman Bishop and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the “Recreation Not Red-Tape Act (RNR)” (S. 1633, H.R. 3400), legislation that expands the scope of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (PL 114-245), signed into law in late 2016. 

According to Chairman Bishop’s staff, the RNR Act will likely receive a legislative hearing in late September or October, after which it may receive full consideration on the House floor, or be incorporated into another bill.  A path forward in the Senate is not yet clear.  AHC is urging House lawmakers to co-sponsor the bill, and incorporate a reference to “riding” in the preamble, as one of the activities promoted by the legislation. 

Horse Council, Outdoor Recreation Industry, Support Repeal of “Precautionary Principle” Rule

On August 25, the Outdoor Industry Recreation Council and several partners finalized a letter to support the Trump Administration’s August 16 rescission of a 2016 directive from the National Park Service.  The controversial “Director’s Order 100,” issued in late December 2016, would have effectively perpetuated a continued decline in park visitation, ostensibly as a means of promoting conservation.  The coalition has used the Administration’s practice to review and suspend various federal regulations as an opportunity to promote a policy of “rewards” to federal agencies that increase access to federal land and make measurable improvements in their maintenance. 

Equine Industry, Allies, Advocate for Guest Worker Visa Flexibility

While comprehensive immigration reform stalled in 2014, most elected officials have focused on remedies that address short term labor shortages through H-2B visa cap relief.  AHC, in conjunction with coalition partners that include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business, among others, has urged congress to expedite issuance of H-2B visas through the FY2018 appropriations process.   Congress is considering language in the current spending bill that will force agencies to manage the visa program in an efficient manner for at least one year. Also in September, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and friend of the horse industry, is expected to introduce the Agricultural Guest Worker Act of 2017 (Ag Act).  AHC is joining partners with the American Dairy Coalition in a letter supporting the bill, thereby giving momentum to efforts to reform the guest worker visa process.   The Ag Act will add to the growing number of legislative remedies that will address longer term challenges associated with visa program. 

The American Horse Council recently hosted a webinar on the use of H-2B visas in the equine industry. To view the webinar, please visit https://www.horsecouncil.org/webinars

AHC Leverages Coalition Partnerships to Advance the Equine Industry Agenda

Although the equine industry serves as a pillar of the agriculture economy – contributing nearly $40 billion in direct revenues to gross domestic product (GDP) according to an industry study – AHC often finds common cause on a range of issues to assure that federal officials implement the industry’s public policy priorities.  Below is a list of some of the coalitions and organizations with which we form partnerships to help drive the industry’s agenda:

  • American Farm Bureau Federation
  • American Recreation Coalition
  • Animal Agriculture Coalition
  • Animal Welfare Council
  • Coalition for Recreational Trails
  • Family Business Coalition
  • H-2B Workforce Coalition
  • National Federation of Independent Business
  • Outdoor Recreation and Industry Roundtable
  • Rural Rebuild Coalitioon
  • Sports Coalition
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The Safeguard American Food Exports Act Re-Introduced

The Safeguard American Food Exports Act has been re-introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine). The S.A.F.E. Act would outlaw the shipping of horses out of the United States for slaughter.

This is the Senate companion bill to H.R. 113 which Representatives Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) reintroduced earlier in the year. The bill is identical to legislation introduced last Congress and similar to other earlier bills that would in effect prohibit the slaughter of horses in the U.S. and the export of horses for slaughter. 

This bill cites health concerns as the primary rationale to prohibit the sale or export of horses or horsemeat for human consumption, because they are frequently treated with drugs that pose a serious threat to human health if eaten.  The bill would make it illegal under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to knowingly sell or transport horses or parts of horses in interstate or foreign commerce for purposes of human consumption. 

AHC Foundation Economic Impact Study Update

The AHC Foundation’s survey to update the Economic Impact Study of the U.S. Horse Industry officially closed on September 4th. The Innovation Group will begin processing the data from the completed surveys immediately, and the AHC anticipates having the preliminary results of the survey by the beginning of October.

The AHC would like to thank all of those that took the time to respond to the survey. This study documents the economic effects of racing, showing, recreation, rodeo and other segments of the horse industry on the state and national economy. It provides invaluable data on the number of horses, jobs, and related industries that are impacted by horse ownership, and it shows the diverseness of the industry we all love. The economic data that we collect from this study will help us chart a course for the future, and give the general public and members of Congress the most accurate portrait of the economic impact the diverse equine industry has!

Horse Pros, Veterinarians Step Up in the 2017 Time to Ride Challenge

Time to Ride’s largest program, the Challenge, provides equine professionals throughout the country with the opportunity to compete by sharing their love of horses with new people. In the fourth year of the Challenge, event hosts are showing serious commitment to the growth of the equine industry. Close to 1,000 creative and beginner-friendly events planned nationwide are providing new people with opportunities to engage with horses for the first time.

This year, the Challenge includes a new attribute that is already bringing new enthusiasts back to a riding stable for more. Phase II of the Challenge rewards hosts for providing a longer and more personalized horse experience for participants.  Hosts advertise their events on marketing platforms such as the radio, social media, and print media. At the end of the newcomer’s introductory experience, they receive a coupon for a discounted follow-up opportunity, such as a lesson or trail ride. From there, newcomers can sign up for another lesson or even a package of lessons. 

The objective of these follow-up experiences is to encourage newcomers to become regularly involved with horses, through riding or other activities; and incentivize professionals to develop long-term relationships with new clients joining the equestrian community. Since 2014, the Challenge alone has introduced over 100,000 new people to the benefits of horses. These newcomers are becoming the next generation of riders, owners, members, clients, and participants in the horse industry.

Phase I of the Challenge ends August 31, and The Challenge runs through September 30th, and registration is free and open throughout. Please visit the website or contact info@timetoride.com for more information.