Contagious equine metritis (CEM) is a venereal disease found in horses caused by bacteria. It is spread during breeding or through contact with contaminated objects. This disease occurs very rarely in the United States and does not affect other livestock or people. However, it is highly contagious among horses and can be difficult to detect and control. Signs of illness in infected mares may not be obvious, and stallions carry the bacteria without showing any signs at all. CEM can have a negative impact on fertility in both mares and stallions. If the disease became widespread in the United States, the horse industry could suffer considerable economic losses.
CEM testing procedures are critical to protecting U.S. horse herd health. However, these procedures pose an unacceptable risk to horses in international competition. In light of this risk, U.S. equine athletes are at a competitive disadvantage due to excessive travel which shortens show season. Over the last 5 years, during the annual APHIS Stakeholders’ meeting, the equine community has requested a change in the CEM testing rule by USDA-APHIS leadership. USDA-APHIS officials have indicated that changing from a 60-day waiver to a 90-day waiver is possible, and indeed warranted.
In light of the frustration felt by the horse industry, the AHC’s Board of Trustees issued the following statement;
”The American Horse Council requests an immediate transition from the current waiver to one allowing competition horses to spend 90 days in CEM affected countries without requiring testing upon returning to the United States as long as such horses have not been used for breeding during the period they have been out of the country.”
American Horse Council Efforts to Address ELD Mandate
Over the past months the American Horse Council (AHC) has reached out to the equine community to determine the potential impact of the upcoming Electronic Logging Device mandate. Based on the information received, the AHC, in collaboration with the rest of the animal agriculture community, has requested that the Department of Transportation (DOT) grant a one-year enforcement delay followed by a waiver and limited exemptions from compliance with the December 18, 2017 implementation date for the Final Rule on Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) and Hours of Service (HOS). Additionally, we requested that the DOT address the significant problems with the mandate that will occur if the compliance deadline is not extended. The welfare, safety, and health of the animals in transit, together with the safety of other drivers on the road, are top priorities for the equine industry and its enthusiasts.
The livestock sector has consistently been one of the safest of the commercial hauling sectors. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study, conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Institute, showed that of 1,123 accidents involving trucks hauling cargo, only five involved the transportation of livestock. Similarly, the report titled Trucks Involved in Fatal Accidents Fact-book 2005, conducted by the Transportation Research Institute, shows that livestock transporters accounted for just 0.7 percent of fatal accidents. The ELD mandate itself, which is the subject of this petition, does nothing to improve that record of safety over paper logs.
While this figure is not irrelevant, and any safety improvements should be considered, the trajectory of this rule’s implementation has left much to be desired. Despite its being issued nearly two years ago, awareness of this rule among livestock haulers and the equine industry is nearly non-existent. For instance, FMCSA’s recent change to include livestock in its interpretation of the 150-air mile exemption for agricultural commodities, a change that the industry strongly supports and appreciates, has raised many additional questions from livestock haulers who are unsure about the mechanics of the new exemption and even if it means they are exempt from the ELD mandate altogether. More time is needed to reach out to the horse industry, and ensure that industry outreach can address ELD compliance and ELD impact.
Many horse operations and competitions are in rural areas, routinely requiring long, and repeated, trips. These animals, when loaded onto trailers, are vulnerable to changes in temperature, humidity, and precipitation. Horse haulers are accustomed to managing these changing conditions through planning, log books and notations in those books. These planning techniques have adapted and evolved over decades as technology has improved. Unfortunately, the quick transition to ELDs does not allow for the natural trial and error process to adequately meet the needs of the horse industry.
The equine industry and the millions of horse fans who attend equine events rely on safe and effective methods of transportation from every corner of the United States. Domestic transit of our competition and breeding animals is critical to the business continuity of our industry and largely relies on the use of large commercial haulers. These individuals have expressed their concern with the implications of this rule in regards to the negative impacts to standards in welfare, biosecurity and cost.
We are disappointed that the FMCSA did not feel the need to reach out to the larger livestock industry stakeholders prior to finalizing this rule, but specifically for not reaching out to the equine industry considering the constant and repeated travel inherent to the competitive, coast to coast nature of our industry. While horse haulers are able to provide more accommodating shipping conditions compared to other livestock sectors, the issues we have with immediate implementation of the rule mirror those of the larger animal agriculture community.
The American Horse Council will continue to petition for an enforcement delay, to be followed by a waiver and/or limited exemptions from compliance with the final rule on ELDs, and specifically the expected Hours of Service (HOS). Additionally we will continue to take advantage of any opportunity to collaborate with FMCSA and the DOT during this delay to better meet the needs of the animal agriculture community on future regulatory efforts.
Please contact Cliff Williamson at the American Horse Council with questions or comments at 202-296-4031 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
May 2018 ELD Deadline Looming
The upcoming Electronic Logging Device deadline has sparked an animated discussion within the horse industry. The AHC would like to note that these are federal regulations that are left to state officials to be enforced. This division of responsibilities, and potentially divergent interpretation, is the basis for the sense of confusion felt across the industry.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have told the AHC that the regulatory changes within the department are several years behind schedule. As such, addressing the current state of compliance is critically important to the industry and the continuation of the equestrian sport and way of life.
In that light, the AHC is working collectively with the larger livestock industry to seek more concise and plainly presented expectations for the equine industry to follow. The following letter was sent to Secretary Elaine Chao with the Department of Transportation in the hopes that DOT will address these concerns. Depending on the response from Secretary Chao and DOT, AHC is prepared to pursue new regulatory and legislative options that ensure the continuity and protection of the equine industry.
Please contact the AHC if you have any further questions.
AHC meets with DOT-FMCSA
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.
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;
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 email@example.com . This address will be used to generate a future F.A.Q. page.
We encourage our members to share their questions to this link 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.
Please contact the American Horse Council with any questions or comments.
Disease Reporting & Surveillance
AHC Issues Statement on African Horse Sickness
During the 2018 AHC Annual Meeting, equine diseases not naturally occurring in the United States were discussed, as was the potential impact of these diseases on our ability to do business.
One such disease is African Horse Sickness (AHS). AHS is transmitted by biting midges and flies that occurs regularly in most countries of sub-Saharan Africa. In naive populations of horses, which are the most susceptible equids, mortality may reach 90% in epidemics. The disease, which presents as a pulmonary and/or a cardiac form, is characterized by high fever, depression, and respiratory symptoms. The clinically affected animal has trouble breathing, starts coughing frothy fluid from nostril and mouth, and shows signs of pulmonary edema within four days. Serious lung congestion causes respiratory failure and results in death in under 24 hours.
Needless to say, the introduction of this disease into the United States would not only have catastrophic implications for the health of our national herd, but would prove to be insurmountable for the continuity of the domestic horse industry. Horses would be confined to the areas in which they live, live animal export would come to a complete stop, and competitions would be halted nationwide. AHS poses a significant risk to the country, and as such the American Horse Council has long taken a no tolerance stance against the weakening of any regulations that could inadvertently allow this disease to enter the U.S. This year, the AHC Board of Trustees released the following statement;
“The American Horse Council requests a federal review and revocation of Saudi Arabia’s freedom of African Horse Sickness status and encourages the USDA to solicit industry support before relaxing the status of any other countries in regards to African Horse Sickness pre/post import testing.”
USDA-Animal Care, the agency responsible for enforcing the Horse Protection Act, released their Impact report for the first two quarters of the 2018 fiscal year. In it they shared that the USDA attended 16 HPA-regulated events, in which;
USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service has started mailing the 2017 Census of Agriculture to America’s horse farms. Mailing in phases, all census questionnaires should be received by late December. If you do not receive a questionnaire this year, or have not received one ever, but wish to be included, you can sign up at https://www.agcounts.usda.gov/legacy0/cgi-bin/counts. Producers can respond online at www.agcensus.usda.gov or by mail. The American Horse Council encourages all qualified operations to participate and be counted. The deadline to respond is February 5, 2018.
Conducted once every five years, the census aims to get a complete and accurate picture of American agriculture. The resulting data are used by trade associations, researchers, policymakers, extension educators, agribusinesses, and many others. The data can play a vital role in community planning, farm assistance programs, technology development, farm advocacy, agribusiness setup, rural development, and more. This information may provide a critical snapshot of the equine industry that, when coupled with the AHC Economic Impact Study, will provided the evidence needed to affect important change here in Washington D.C.
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) officially ends data collection for the 2017 Census of Agriculture on July 31, 2018. Owners and breeders, every response is important – even if it’s just to say that you are no longer involved. The Census of Agriculture, conducted once every five years, provides the only source of comprehensive agricultural data for every state and county in the nation. Each response is a representation of not only the individual farm or ranch but the industry and community, too. The stronger the data, the better informed future decisions can be, both for the industry and the regulatory agencies responsible. NASS is required by law to keep all information confidential, to use the data only for statistical purposes, and to only publish data in aggregate form to prevent disclosing the identity of any individual producer or farm operation.
While the equine industry is not comprehensively include in the NASS census, our participation is critical to highlighting the importance of the horse industry within the US agricultural community.
AHC Encourages Horse Industry to complete 2018 Ag Census
The USDA is a little more than one week away from the 2017 Census of Agriculture response deadline of February 5. The AHC would like to remind farmers and ranchers of the importance of their input. A national press release was sent out this week. You 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/ .
Responses so far look good in much of the United States. There are expectations for considerable progress over the next week is in the South. From the southeast across to Arizona, there is not as fast a return rate as other parts of the country. States with lower return rates at this point are Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. These states have a considerable equine presence, and it is important to make the horse industry impact felt.
The American Horse Council will release our own Economic Impact Study later this month, and we are lucky 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 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.
Clarification of Withholding Requirement on Racing
On December 29, 2016 the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published a proposed rule regarding withholding requirements on pari-mutuel winnings. The proposed rule would make changes to withholding requirements that are more accurate and reflect the current state of wagering in the horse racing industry.