On December 18, 2015, an omnibus appropriations bill that will fund the government was passed by Congress and signed by the President. This bill is a package of all 12 annual appropriations bills and will fund all government agencies and programs until the end of the fiscal year, September 30, 2016.
The omnibus bill contains several provisions that impact the horse industry, including reforms to the H-2B temporary guest worker program, the U.S. Department Agriculture (USDA) FY 2016 appropriations bill, defunding of horse slaughter, and reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
“Notably, the bill includes several beneficial provisions relating to the H-2B temporary, non-agricultural worker program and would roll back some of the most onerous provisions of a 2015 H-2B rule,” said AHC president Jay Hickey. “The AHC has been working to ensure these provisions were included in the omnibus bill and on reforms to the program for years. These provisions will make the H-2B program less burdensome for employers, including those in the horse industry.”
“The bill contains vital funding for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS,) which is responsible for protecting and responding to contagious equine disease outbreaks. The bill also includes funding for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA). Adequate funding for APHIS, equine health, and the HPA are important for the welfare of U.S. horses and the economic health of the horse industry,” said Hickey.
The bill includes language that prohibits USDA from using any funds to provide inspectors at meat processing facilities that slaughter horses, continuing a block that begin in 2005, except for a brief period in 2012 and 2013.
No horse slaughter facilities are operating in the U.S. and this bill would effectively prevent any such facility from opening before September 30, 2016.
The language was included in the omnibus bill because the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment that prohibited funding for inspectors at horse slaughter facilities when they debated and approved their version of the FY 2016 USDA appropriations bill. The Senate amendment was offered in committee by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and passed by a voice vote.
The bill will also reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for three years with funding of $450 million for the coming FY 2016, a nearly 50 percent increase over the previous level. LWCF provides funds and matching grants to federal, state and local governments for the acquisition of land and water for recreation and the protection of natural resources.
“The LWCF program had expired this year and there was some concern it might not get reauthorized in a timely fashion,” said AHC vice president of government affairs. “The program is responsible for adding millions of acres to the national parks system, national recreation areas, and state and local parks that include many trails for equestrians.”
More details about the bill can be found here: https://www.horsecouncil.org/press-release/congress-approves-omnibus-bill-to-fund-government/