November 3 Legislative Update from the AHC: Horses Made Eligible for Federal Emergency Funds

Language making horses eligible for various federal disaster assistance programs was included in the final USDA FY 2006 appropriations bill just passed by Congress. The President is expected to sign the bill. The horse industry has been working on this effort for some time. The provision was added by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), with the support of Senators Jim Bunning (R-KY), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Thad Cochran (R-MS).

The provision is the same as the language regarding federal assistance in the Equine Equity Act (S. 1528) introduced in the Senate last July by Senators McConnell, Bunning and Lincoln.

There was no similar provision in the House-passed USDA Appropriations bill. Nonetheless, the Conference Committee formed to work out the various differences between the two bills accepted the Senate version with the new federal assistance program, which is effective July 28, 2005.

The provision will include horses within the scope of livestock eligible for various federal programs provided for in other statutes governing emergency federal programs. Importantly, it repeals the language in the outdated Agricultural Act of 1949 limiting emergency funds to horses “used for food or the production of food.” This limitation has been a major stumbling block to making horses eligible for federal assistance.

Broadening the current emergency assistance programs to include horses will rectify the unfair economic situation now facing horse owners and breeders versus other livestock producers in the aftermath of disasters.

The AHC is preparing a more detailed explanation of the effect of the new provision and this will be available shortly.

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