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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

AHC Update: House Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2012 USDA Funding Bill

Courtesy American Horse Council

The American Horse Council reports that the House Appropriations Committee approved   the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for 2012 last night.   This bill provides funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for 2012 fiscal year (October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2012) and contains several provisions of interest to the horse industry.


Equine disease control and eradication

The AHC had asked the Committee to make combating contagious equine disease a priority in this USDA appropriations bill.  The AHC is pleased the Committee agreed and included language in the committee report accompanying the bill that highlights the threat of contagious equine disease to the horse industry and directs USDA's Animal and  Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to make responding to such outbreaks a priority. A committee report contains more detailed guidance to the federal agencies than is included in associated appropriations bill.  The 2012 USDA appropriations committee report contained the following language:

"The Committee is aware of equine disease outbreaks that have occurred with increased frequency over the last several years. These outbreaks threaten the health and welfare of U.S. horses and the economic viability of the $102 billion horse industry. APHIS is encouraged to quickly respond to such threats through the use of its authorities. APHIS is directed to report to the Committee by July 1, 2011, on the estimated funds allocated for equine disease in fiscal years 2011 and 2012, as well as the range and degree of equine diseases currently existing within the U.S."

The language was included through the efforts of Congressmen Hal Rogers (R-KY), the Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Jack Kingston (R-GA), Chair of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, and  Tom Latham (R-IA), a member of the Subcommittee. The AHC very much appreciates their support.

USDA funding

The bill would set overall funding for APHIS at $793.2 million. APHIS is the agency responsible for responding to disease outbreaks. This is $73.6 million less than FY 2011 levels and $44.2 million below the President's request for FY 2012.  However, the bill would set funding for equine, cervid, and small ruminant health at $22 million in accordance with the President's request.

The bill would fund the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at $993.35 million a reduction of $139.88 million from FY 2011 and $144.35 million less than the Presidents request. ARS is the USDA's chief scientific research agency.  ARS has played a critical role in mitigating the health and economic impacts equine infectious diseases, such as Equine Piroplasmosis, have had on the horse industry.

USDA Inspection at Plants

During mark-up in the full Committee,Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) offered an amendment to reinstate the prohibition on funding for USDA inspections at U.S. horse slaughter facilities. This prohibition was not in the bill reported out of the Subcommittee.   The amendment passed on a vote of 24-21. While there are currently no plants operating in the in the United States  that process horses for human consumption, this provision would  effectively bar  any such plant from operating in the U.S. for  FY 2012.

Horse Protection Act

The bill would set funding for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act at $500,000 for FY 2012, the same level as FY 2011, but $400,000 less than the President's request.  Additionally, the Committee included the following language in the committee report concerning the Horse Protection Act:

The Committee directs APHIS to apply its resources towards the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act for the most egregious violators and/or offenders of the Act. USDA should continue to use all options necessary to maintain industry self-regulation and an effective DQP (Designated Qualified Person) program, including the use of more open and transparent communications with the Horse Industry Organizations (HIO). Even though APHIS did communicate with the HIOs at various points in the process leading up to the implementation of the mandatory penalty protocol, the Committee believes that APHIS would have been more effective in meeting the requirements of the Act and developed a more cooperative arrangement with the HIOs if the agency would have utilized the notice and comment rulemaking process. The Committee will mandate alternative action if it believes that APHIS has not exercised fairness and due process in the regulation of the industry.

Status

This bill must now be approved by the full House.

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