House Lawmakers Re-Introduce Bi-Partisan PAST Act, Tell Your Representative to Join the Growing List of Co-Sponsors!

House Lawmakers Re-Introduce Bi-Partisan PAST Act, Tell Your Representative to Join the Growing List of Co-Sponsors!

To kick off 2019, Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Ted Yoho (R-FL), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Ron Estes (R-KS), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Chris Collins (R-NY)  have led a bipartisan charge to re-introduce the “Sen. Joseph Tydings Memorial Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act” (H.R. 693).  While the legislation includes provisions identical to last year’s bill, lawmakers have amended the title by honoring the late Sen. Joseph Tydings of Maryland.  Sen. Tydings was a renowned horseman who served in one of the army’s horse platoons as an enlisted soldier and introduced the Horse Protection Act while serving in Congress during the 1970s.

The “Joseph Tydings Memorial PAST Act” will strengthen the Horse Protection Act and finally end the soring of Tennessee Walking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses, and Racking Horses. New procedures in the House of Representatives which favor bringing widely-supported bills to the floor for a vote increase the chances for passage in the House this year.  The American Horse Council, along with most major national horse show organizations and state and local organizations, supports the PAST Act.  To copy, paste, and send a letter to your representative urging him or her to sign on as a co-sponsor, please click on the following link: https://app.muster.com/take-action/bcudTde2tH/. For more information related to H.R. 693 and how to move it forward, please contact AHC’s Bryan Brendle at 202-296-4031.    

Congress Clarifies That Horses are Not “Pets,” Advances Landmark Livestock Health Measures

Congress Clarifies That Horses are Not “Pets,” Advances Landmark Livestock Health Measures

As the countdown to close the 115th Congress heads to the final stretch, on Wednesday, December 12, Congress passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), sending the legislation to the president, who is expected to sign the bill into law this week.  Horse industry highlights include a revised statutory definition that excludes equines from a blanket definition of “pets” and funding for key livestock and international market development programs through Fiscal Year (FY) 2023.  In the wake of extensive horse industry outreach, lawmakers struck language in the senate version that defined horses as “pets” within the context of a “Pet and Women Safety” (PAWS) measure.  Industry requested that lawmakers delete “horses” from the proposed statutory definition of “pets,” but retain “horses” as a stand-alone category.  In response to industry messages communicated to congressional leaders during the past six months, the final conference report states that the bill “clarifies the definition of pet to include certain companion animals, while also providing protections for other animals such as horses, service animals, and emotional support animals.”   The revised definition helps preserve the long-standing classification of horses as “livestock,” while allowing equines to fall within the scope of property damage subject to compensation within the parameters of the PAWS Act.

A preliminary review of the legislation shows that lawmakers are moving in the right direction with respect to funding important animal health programs.  Unlike earlier versions of the bill, the legislation mandates rather than authorizes minimum appropriations totaling $150 million to fund the National Animal Vaccine Bank (NAVVCB), the National Animal Disaster Preparedness and Response Program (NADPRP) and National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), among other programs, for FY 2019 to 2023.  Of the $150 million of mandated funding, the bill stipulates that Congress will appropriate $112 million “to be allocated among the NAHLN, the NADPRP and the NAVVCB.”  With respect to the NAHLN, a major priority for the horse industry, the legislation further authorizes up to $30 million per year over the five-year span of the farm bill, matching industry’s authorization request.   Additionally, the legislation provides “$255 million in annual mandatory funding” for Foreign Market Development, the Market Access Program, and other programs that support the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).   To view a copy of the conference report to H.R. 2, please click here: https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20181210/CRPT-115hrpt1072.pdf.  For more information related to legislative activity, please contact AHC’s Bryan Brendle at 202-296-4031.

Horse Industry Directory Press Release

In 2019 the American Horse Council (AHC) will be celebrating 50 years of service to the Equine Industry. As part of our celebration we plan to publish the most in-depth, robust Horse Industry Directory (HID) ever! The HID is the most inclusive directory of all facets of the equine industry – literally a “Who’s Who” featuring thousands of listings and resources including breed associations and discipline organizations, federal contacts, state horse councils, general state agricultural contacts, commercial vendors, service providers, as well as equine rescues, publications and veterinary schools. The service providers section alone is the “go to” guide for horse owners which includes attorneys, accountants, farriers, feed companies, shippers, trainers, farms and much more.

HID also includes handy facts and figures about the industry including breed registration numbers and trends,  a guide to interstate health requirements, industry meetings and conference dates/locations and a synopsis of important legislative and regulatory happenings.

Provided to all AHC members at no charge and sold to over 500 industry participants, the HID is widely circulated and relied upon by the industry! If you want your organization, company or products to be seen by the equine industry – this is the place to be!

AHC members receive a free three inch by three inch listing. Equine welfare and rescues organizations receive a free one inch by three inch listing. Non-Members may purchase a three inch by three inch listing for $25 or receive a free one line listing (name, contact, address, and phone).  The directory also contains premium advertising space, so contact Emily Brockway at the e-mail below to get a rate card and details about placements.

Our goal is to put every industry contact you need at your fingertips!  If you would like to be included in our directory, please send your information to ebrockway@horsecouncil.org  with the subject “HID Info” by January 18, 2019.

Look for the 2019 Horse Industry Directory coming in March 2019!

Tell Congress to Pass Popular, Bipartisan Trails Bills!

Tell Congress to Pass Popular, Bipartisan Trails Bills!

As Congress returns for a final, “lame duck” session following the November 6 election, lawmakers have an opportunity to pass widely-supported, bipartisan legislation that promotes access to public lands for equine enthusiasts.   The horse industry seeks to push two major trails bills across the finish line:

Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act (H.R. 6510/S. 3172) – The House Natural Resources Committee voted unanimously to pass H.R. 6510, the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, underscoring the bi-partisan support behind the bill.  The House bill currently has 209 cosponsors.  On the other side of the Capitol, Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Warner (D-VA) have joined 33 senate colleagues to give momentum to the Restore Our Parks Act of 2018 (S. 3172).  The Restore Our Parks Act (H.R. 6510/ S. 3172) will fund National Park Service trails maintenance projects by diverting energy development revenues to a new public lands restoration account.

Recreation Not Red Tape (RNR) Act – Since House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) introduced the RNR Act (H.R. 3400) in 2017, the chairman conducted a full committee hearing, resulting in passage of the legislation in April 2018.   House leadership has the discretion to schedule a vote on H.R. 3400 before the end of the year.  The legislation currently has 12 bipartisan co-sponsors.  On the Senate side, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced a companion bill, S. 1633, which has won bipartisan co-sponsorships from Sens. Donnelly (D-IN), Ernst (R-IA), Tester (D-MT) and King (I-ME).  Although leadership has referred the bill to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, no hearings have been scheduled.

While the Restore Our Parks legislation has quickly gained significant support from lawmakers, the RNR Act has not gained as much traction.  To put more horsepower into the bill, urge your lawmakers to co-sponsor the RNR Act.  Please contact your lawmakers today, and urge them to pass these important bills before the end of the year.

https://app.muster.com/take-action/P4REOVPGyI/?t=2c7b32a935cf62d1ff63ac51090e0011

Equine Welfare Data Collective officials starts data collection

Equine Welfare Data Collective officials starts data collection

The Equine Welfare Data Collective (EWDC) is pleased to officially announce the start of data collection within the equine welfare industry.

The EWDC is collecting national data on equine welfare from transition centers, adoption centers, rescues, sanctuaries, shelters, and other organizations involved in equine welfare. We will measure progress and identify risks and opportunities within the industry, so organizations like yours can develop impactful and sustainable programs.

The success of the EWDC depends on a robust contribution of data from all organizations within the industry. The first round of data collection will focus on the population of intakes and outcomes within the United States. Online surveys will be distributed to EWDC affiliate organizations beginning immediately.

How does your organization become an affiliate? Affiliates must commit to responding to surveys on a quarterly basis. Participation in the EWDC is free, and all results will remain anonymous. Organizations that contribute data will be the first to receive the results and will be given an EWDC badge for their website to publicly demonstrate their commitment to our mission.

Granting organizations such as the Unwanted Horse Coalition (UHC), The Right Horse Initiative (TRH), American Association of Equine Practitioners Foundation (AAEPF), and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) will be looking for your contribution to the EWDC as part of their funding considerations.

Your data contribution will provide more accurate study results to help you understand and communicate the scope of the issues you are tackling, better serve your community, and become a benchmark among industry leaders.

To become an affiliate or for more information, please contact Emily Stearns, EWDC program manager, at EWDC@HorseCouncil.Org.

AHC Announces Topic for 4th Quarter Webinar!

AHC Announces Topic for 4th Quarter Webinar

Webinar to focus on State Equine Liability Law

The American Horse Council (AHC) will conduct its fourth quarter webinar for 2018 examining the legal landscape that characterizes diverse state equine liability laws.  The hour-long session will feature two nationally recognized practitioners of equine law, Julie Fershtman, Esq. and Milton Toby, Esq.  The webinar will take place on Wednesday, November 14, at 3:00 pm ET.

According to the 2017 economic impact study analyzing the horse industry, more than 30% of U.S. households include equine enthusiasts among their ranks.  Nearly two-thirds of this group – or more than 17% of U.S. households – includes individuals who are active participants in equine activities making them subject to liability waivers.  The waivers can take the form of written contracts and/or signage placed on an equine property and may limit the rights and responsibilities of riders and property owners engaged in equine activities.   Because equine liability law is a state matter, the $122 billion U.S. horse industry is subject to a patchwork of disparate laws and regulations that vary across jurisdictions.  Ms. Fershtman and Mr. Toby will help us navigate the legal maze, identifying common threads that cross state lines, and analyze nation-wide legal trends impacting the equine sector.

Julie Fersthman is a shareholder in the Michigan-based law firm of Foster Swift.  Her law practice covers all equine breeds and disciplines and serves stables, industry professionals, associations, trainers, and show management.  Highly experienced in handling a variety of disputes involving the equine sector, Ms. Fershtman has served as special out-of-state counsel on equine-related lawsuits in 18 jurisdictions across the country.

Milton Toby is an attorney and award-winning author based in central Kentucky.  For the last decade, he has taught courses in equine commercial law, regulatory law, and federal income tax for the equine industry program in the University of Louisville’s College of Business.  A noted thoroughbred racing historian, Mr. Toby has written about high profile racing disqualification controversies and horse theft.

The webinar is open to both AHC members and non-members—we encourage everyone to attend! The webinar lasts approximately one hour, and will allow for Q&A at the end of each speaker’s presentation.  To register for the webinar, please contact Dennis Martinez at DMartinez@horsecouncil.org.  We look forward to having you join us on November 14.

AHC Releases Equine Microchip “Look-up” Website!

AHC Releases Equine Microchip “Look-up” Website

Washington DC – The American Horse Council is excited to announce the release of their new equine microchip lookup tool at www.Horselookup.org. This tool will allow the general public; most importantly horse owners, law enforcement and animal health officials, to search for association affiliation for horses that have been microchipped and registered with a participating organization. The American Horse Council is continuing to solicit participation from every U.S. organization that houses microchip information in an effort to make this tool as thorough as possible.

Microchip lookup services have existed for several animal species for years. Unfortunately, those lookup tools have certain limitations that prevented the entirety of the horse industry from being represented. Horselookup.org addresses those issues while also providing a central informational source for the equine industry concerning microchipping, as well as the promotion of microchipping as a form of permanent identification.

Horselookup.org also promotes the industry’s various Safety Net Programs. Safety Net Programs offer individuals the opportunity to attach their name to a horse’s registration for the purposes of providing an option for that horse should it ever be in need of a home. Safety Net Programs vary by organization and are managed by those participating organizations. If a horse is enrolled in a Safety Net Program, a special logo will appear with that animal’s search results specifying which program and the contact information for that organization.

The creation of Horselookup.org was possible thanks to a generous grant from the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). “The creation of the Equine Microchip Look-up Tool is a vital step to reaching the ASPCA’s goal of ensuring all equines have good welfare,” said Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of ASPCA Equine Welfare. “The tool will not only help reunite horses with their owners during natural disasters, but it will also help to facilitate the growth of safety net programs where individuals who have owned, cared for or admired a horse can sign up to help that horse should he ever become at risk.”

We are very grateful to the early adopters of this new AHC led industry initiative; The Jockey Club and their Thoroughbred Connect Program, US Equestrian (USEF), Datamars, Inc. and their PetLink.net registry, Microchip ID Systems, Inc. and their Equine Protection registry as well as their LifeTrac Safety Net Program. The complete list of supporting organizations can be found here.

Please visit https://www.horselookup.org/ for more information, or contact Cliff Williamson at cwilliamson@horsecouncil.org at the American Horse Council.

Horse Industry Gathers in DC, Moves Key Priorities Toward the Finish Line!

October 1, 2018

Horse Industry Gathers in DC, Moves Key Priorities Toward the Finish Line!

On Wednesday, September 26 and Thursday, September 27, horse industry representatives gathered in Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers and advocate for passage of the industry’s top legislative priorities.  During a meeting with leaders of the Congressional Horse Caucus and other industry allies on September 26, members learned more about positive developments related to a funding boost for equine assisted therapy and industry-specific provisions of the 2018 farm bill and guest worker visa legislation.  Prospects for another enforcement delay for the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate and progress on trails legislation also emerged as reasons to run into the home-stretch of the 115th Congress on a high note.  During the two day meeting series, horse industry advocates met in the offices of more than 35 elected officials.   Below are summaries of highlights emerging from the Fall “Ride-In.”

Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) Emerges as a Win-Win for Heroes and Horses

Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) briefed horse industry representatives on the latest boost to EAT funding included in the new FY2019 Veterans’ Affairs spending bill, which the president signed into law on September 21.  The new law increases EAT funding to $1.5 million, a 50 percent increase from FY2018 levels.  Rep. Barr (R-KY) spoke passionately about the dual benefits to veterans returning to civilian life, and the opportunities for working horses to have “second careers” as therapeutic animals.  Studies show that EAT can effectively treat post-traumatic stress disorder that afflicts many U.S. veterans.

Farm Legislation Includes Cutting-Edge Animal Health Programs, Lawmakers Address Industry-Specific Statutory Definition

While the industry has successfully advocated for a trifecta of livestock health programs in both versions of the farm bill – creation of the National Animal Health Vaccine bank, a new National Disaster Preparedness Program and support for the National Animal Health and Laboratory Network – differences over the scope of nutrition assistance programs have stalled agreement on a final package.  House Agriculture Committee Vice Chairman G.T. Thompson (R-PA) informed AHC that he believed that the House and Senate would ultimately find common ground on a final bill before the end of the year.  Echoing statements made during several meetings, Rep. Thompson (R-PA) also expressed optimism that the final bill would drop language included in the senate version that defines horses as “pets” within the context of a “Pet and Women Safety” (PAWS) provision.  Industry has suggested that lawmakers delete “horses” from the proposed, statutory definition of “pets,” but retain “horses” as a stand-alone category.  This would retain the long-standing classification of horses as “livestock,” while allowing equines to fall within the scope of property damage subject to compensation within the parameters of the PAWS Act.

Congressional Allies Continue to Fight for Guest-Worker Visa Flexibility, Equine-Specific Labor Needs

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) discussed the AG and Legal Workforce Act of 2018 (H.R. 6417), which would reform the broken agricultural guest worker visa program.  Among other benefits to the industry, the legislation clearly states that personnel involved in the “management and training of equines” will qualify to participate in a newly-created H-2C visa program for farm workers.   Since Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced the bill in late June, it has gained 110 co-sponsors.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) discussed a second vehicle important to the industry, his provision in the FY2019 DHS (H.R. 6776) appropriation which addresses the stringent 66,000 cap imposed on the issuance of H-2B visas by providing an exemption for returning workers.   This “returning worker” exemption not only provides much needed cap relief, but will reduce red tape for seasonal employers.  Congress will likely not finalize the bill until after the November election.

Will Trails Legislation Cross the Finish Line?

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) lauded the fact that both the Recreation Not Red-Tape (RNR) Act (H.R. 3400) and the Restore Our Parks Act (H.R. 6510) passed his committee favorably, and are placed on the House calendar for a possible vote before the end of the year.  While neither companion bill in the Senate has yet received a hearing, senate aides stated that there was reason to be optimistic that Restore Our Parks (S. 3172) would receive a hearing in the fall.  Of the two major trails bills that the horse industry supports, it appears that Restore Our Parks, which would address backlog trails maintenance, has the better chance of crossing the finish line before the end of the year.  Stay tuned.

Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act Gains Supporters 

No new information emerged during the meeting series to raise the prospects for passage of the PAST Act.  However, the Senate version of the bill (S. 2957) has gained 32 cosponsors.  Sen. Crapo’s (R-ID) office stated that they were optimistic that the bill would have no shortage of supporters during the next congress. AHC will continue to keep you updated on any changes to the prospects for this important equine health legislation.

Horse Industry Focuses on Congressional Leaders, Leverages Message

While the bulk of the Hill meetings during the ride-in focused on constituent-specific officials, the industry also met with leaders who have jurisdiction over the sector’s major legislative issues.  Horse industry representatives were able to meet with chairmen of the House Judiciary Committee and House Natural Resources Committee, as well as the Vice Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.  On the Senate side, AHC members and guests talked to senior staff in the offices of the Senate Majority Leader and Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, among others.   If you’d like more information related to the meeting series and next steps, please contact Bryan Brendle at bbrendle@horsecouncil.org or 202-296-4031.

Reps. Andy Barr (R-KY) and David Valadao (R-CA) kick off a meeting of the Congressional Horse Caucus.

Congress Extends ELD exemption through Dec. 7th

September 28, 2018

Congress has sent a spending bill to the White House in an effort to avert an Oct. 1 government shutdown and push the discussion regarding final appropriations until after the November elections. H.R. 6157 includes a continuing resolution that would extend funding for those agencies not covered by completed appropriations bills, including agriculture and transportation. This will extend the ELD protections the horse industry has enjoyed through December 7, 2018.  The President has said he will sign this bill package to avert a shutdown.

By December 7th Congress will either do another extension or pass the 2019 spending package, which includes the ELD delay for livestock haulers, leaving these haulers exempt from ELD use until September 30, 2019.

The AHC is continuing to work with both the FMCSA and Congress to identify a permanent solution to the unintended consequences to new and existing CDL and ELD regulations that have proven to be problematic.

For more information please contact Cliff Williamson at the American Horse Council.

House Appropriators Score Win for Horse Industry, Advance H-2B Visa Cap Relief!

July, 26 2018

House Appropriators Score Win for Horse Industry, Advance H-2B Visa Cap Relief!

On July 25, the House Appropriations Committee convened a mark-up for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  By voice vote, the committee approved an amendment that exempts returning workers from the 66,000 statutory cap imposed on the H-2B guest worker visa program, providing much needed H-2B visa cap relief advocated by the horse industry and its allies.  The amendment, offered by Congressional Horse Caucus Members Rep. Andy Harris, MD (R-MD) and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), among others, applies to workers who have received guest worker visas during the previous two years.  Additionally, the provision also establishes a visa allocation system that disburses work permits on a quarterly basis.  Lawmakers believe that the quarterly system will create more flexibility for employers whose labor demands do not align with the semi-annual allocation system, whereby DHS awards permits on April 1 and October 1.  The horse industry and its allies in the H-2B Coalition fight for a variety of flexibility measures, including a straight-forward increase in the visa cap, or generous exemptions from the statutory cap, such as those for returning workers. 

Pointing to another flexibility measure, Rep. Harris (R-MD) released a statement explaining the importance of a provision that allocates visas on a “proportional” rather than a “winner take all” basis.  Under this provision, DHS would award a portion of all timely, requested visas to all applicants, even in the event that “the higher limits authorized by [the] amendment are not enough to satisfy all the needs in a given year.”  To view a copy of Rep. Harris’s statement, please click here:  https://harris.house.gov/media/press-releases/house-appropriations-committee-approves-harris-language-repairing-h-2b-visa.   

While the House spending bill advances the goal of effectively raising the H-2B visa cap, the Senate version of the bill doesn’t address the H-2B visa issue, setting up an item to be negotiated during a House and Senate conference.  Although lawmakers intend to finalize their spending measures before the current FY ends on September 30, this is a deadline that Congress rarely meets.   As in years past, Congress may pass a series of “continuing resolutions” to fund the federal government.  AHC will keep you posted on developments related to the H-2B measure as the FY2019 appropriations process moves forward.  To view a copy of the three-page amendment, please click here: https://www.horsecouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/HARRMD_037_xml-offered-2-1.pdf

If you’d like more information related to the guest worker issue, including ongoing grassroots outreach from the horse industry, please contact Bryan Brendle at bbrendle@horsecouncil.org or 202-296-4031. 

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