American Horse Council International Movement Working Group Town Hall


American Horse Council International Movement Working Group Town Hall


The AHC newly formed International Movement Working Group recently hosted a Town Hall meeting for brokers, transporters, and stakeholders importing and exporting horses. The meeting had over 90 registrants from across the globe. The purpose of this town hall was to share ongoing efforts to improve the import/export experience for all stakeholders invested in the international movement of horses.


The AHC formed this working group to identify challenges and successes related to the international movement of horses. AHC is seeking input to better understand stakeholder concerns related to the safe, healthy, and efficient movement of horses.  During the town hall meeting the group announced how stakeholders can provide real-time ongoing feedback of their import/export experience.


The working group has created a feedback form that anyone can submit. The form is meant to gather specific examples, of both challenges and successes, related to importing and exporting horses. These examples should relate to one of several topics including but not limited to CEM protocols, permitting and health certificates, quarantine, regulatory rules and protocols, scheduling, sick horses, staffing, disease testing, and more.


The form can be found here: bit.ly/EquineMovement and AHC encourages anyone who is involved in the international movement of horses to submit their experiences. Your name and contact information will not be shared with third parties, but we may reach out to clarify any comments in your submission.


Anonymous submissions are welcome, but please submit as much detail as possible to allow us to understand your experience fully. An anonymous comment may be less effective if we are unable to follow up with you on your experience.


If you need assistance with this form, please reach out to Emily Stearns, AHC Health, Welfare, and Regulatory Affairs Liaison at estearns@horsecouncil.org.

Do you need to worry about Bird Flu?

 

Do you need to worry about Bird Flu?


Bird Flu, also known as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), is a highly contagious and often deadly disease in poultry caused by HPAI A (H5) and A (H7) viruses. HPAI is transmitted to domestic poultry via wild birds and most recently the variant H5N1 has been diagnosed in dairy cattle, barn cats, foxes, and 1 person.


H5N1 has not currently been diagnosed in horses; however, it is possible that the H5N1 strain could mutate and infect horses. If H5N1 spreads to horses, it is possible there will be national testing requirements and impacts on interstate movement.


Horses are susceptible to influenza, particularly equine influenza, which is caused by two main strains of the virus (H7N7 and H3N8). The World Organisation for Animal Health considers H7N7 extinct, as it hasn’t been detected in over 20 years.


H3N8 is endemic to the United States and it’s important that horses in the US get vaccinated as part of their routine health care. Equine influenza has a short incubation time and symptoms in horses include fever, nasal discharge, dry cough, depression, weight loss, and weakness. Severely sick horses can develop pneumonia. Most horses recover within 2-3 weeks, but the disease is incredibly infectious among unvaccinated horses.


The first known outbreak of equine influenza in the US was in 1872, but the disease has been reported as far back as 330 CE in Grecian veterinary records.


The outbreak in 1872 became known as “The Great Epizootic of 1872” and was so severe that most horses and mules were incapacitated for weeks and people had to resort to pulling streetcars, wagons, and farm machinery. So severe was the outbreak that 70% of the horses in New York City were affected with a mortality rate as high as 10%.


The concern with influenza viruses is they sometimes mutate to infect other species. H3N8 spread to greyhounds cohoused at a racetrack with infected horses in 2004.


So how can we help prevent the spread of H5N1 to horses? Follow these suggestions:

  • Do your best to prevent wild birds, domestic poultry, or barn cats who may interact with wild birds, from accessing shared space with your horses or other livestock. This is inclusive of outdoor water and feed areas.
  • If you have cattle on your property with your horses, avoid sharing resources such as hay, feed tubs, or water tanks if possible, and wash your hands between handling different species.
  • Raw milk has been shown to carry the live H5N1 virus. If you have barn cats, do not allow them to ingest raw milk. Pasteurized milk is safe.
  • Get in the habit of routinely checking your livestock for illness, this includes taking your horse’s temperature regularly so you know what their normal is.


If you suspect any livestock on your property may be sick:

  • Separate the animal from all other animals on the property and call your veterinarian immediately.
  • Follow standard biosecurity protocols until you and your veterinarian can identify the source of the infection. Treat the animal as if they are infectious to both animals and people until you are able to identify the illness.


To learn more about HPAI N5H1 and keep current on the outbreak, follow the USDA Updates.

Farm Bill Update

 

Farm animals: A donkey and a horse on a pasture of a farm. The donkey is looking forward and the horse is feeding on grass.

Farm Bill Update

 

Representative Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-15), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, is releasing details on the 2024 Farm Bill. The full text is expected to be published prior to the Committee’s hearing scheduled for Thursday, May 23. The Senate has released one overview document.

 

The House and Senate have significant differences in prioritizing programs and funding levels. Senate Committee on Agriculture Chair Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) remains steadfast in her opposition to any reduction in funding for climate change and nutrition programs. If the impasse between the House and Senate versions is not rectified, Senator Stabenow has indicated her willingness to extend the current 2018 Farm Bill and punt deliberations into the next Congress in 2025.

Betting on whether a Farm Bill will pass has become somewhat of a guessing game in Washingtona high-stakes guessing game. The Hill newspaper reported on a study showing that pharmaceutical, manufacturing, and “big agriculture” have spent more than $400 million lobbying Congress on a new farm bill.

Despite not being part of the $400 million lobbying club, AHC is pleased to announce some “wins” for the equine industry: The “three-legged” stool of animal health programs, the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program, and the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank is funded at levels meeting or exceeding our requests to the Committee. These programs are the first line of defense against animal disease outbreaks and emergencies.

 

  • $10 million per year for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network
  • $70 million per year for the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program
  • $153 million per year for the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary
    Countermeasures Bank

 

AHC is also encouraged by the Committee’s directive to the National Agricultural Statistics Service to establish a Commission to improve the efficiency of data collection and the quality of statistics reported. AHC will advocate for a slot on the Commission to press for a comprehensive equine census. A description of the Commission and its mandate is found in H.R. 6351.

 

The Farm Bill has many hurdles ahead. Please join AHC at its upcoming Annual Conference on June 9 to 12 in Washington, D.C., we will have updated information on the state of play, and we’ll be going to congressional offices to make our case for the equine industry!

Register for the Annual Conference now!

New H-2A Farm Worker Protection Rule

 

New H-2A Farm Worker Protection Rule

 


AHC members who use the H-2A program as a source of seasonal agricultural employees need to be aware of new regulations.

 


The H-2A program allows U.S. employers who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs.

 


The Department of Labor (DOL) adopted changes to the program to “further strengthen protections for agricultural workers and enhance the Department’s enforcement capabilities, thereby permitting more effective enforcement against fraud and program violations.”

 


In fulfillment of that goal, the DOL’s final rule increases protections for workers who advocate for better working conditions (including forming or joining labor unions), clarifies the definition of justifiable termination for cause (“failure to meet productivity standards or failure to comply with employer policies or rules.”), and adds to the paperwork and disclosure recruitment process. The regulation also expands worker transportation safety by mandating seat belt use in certain vehicles that the employer provides.

 


The final rule is effective on June 28, 2024. However, H-2A applications filed before Aug. 28, 2024, will be processed according to applicable federal regulations as is in effect as of June 27, 2024. Applications submitted on or after Aug. 29, 2024, will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Farmworker Protection Rule.

 


For more information about the rule, visit the Employment and Training Administration and Wage and Hour Division.

United States Capitol building at sunset.

AHC releases bi-annual Congressional Scorecard

United States Capitol building at sunset.

The United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

AHC releases bi-annual Congressional Scorecard


AHC President Julie Broadway announced the top ten “Champion” Members of Congress who have supported legislation significant to the equine industry. Acknowledging the many challenges confronting the current Congress, Broadway said, “The pace of legislating is slow, money is tight, and it is an election year. It is a trifecta of troubles, yet we’re pleased to announce our Champions in Congress who continue to advocate for the equine industry. It’s been a particularly tumultuous period, and our Congressional Scorecard is more important than ever to help our members sort through all the noise that has enveloped the political discourse.”


The following are the top five ranking members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives:


SENATE

  1. Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia)
  2. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota)
  3. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas)
  4. John Thune (R-South Dakota)
  5. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)


HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

  1. Don Bacon (R-Nebraska-2)
  2. Jimmy Panetta (D-California-19)
  3. Andy Barr (R-Kentucky-6)
  4. Dan Meuser (R-Pennsylvania-9)
  5. McGarvey Morgan (D-Kentucky-3)


The scoring does not consider party affiliations. “The integrity of the scorecard is based on performance, not politics,” said Broadway. “We have a strong track record of working with both sides of the aisle. It’s the work product that matters, not the letter after their names.”


The Congressional Scorecard identifies legislation that draws consensus among the AHC’s diverse membership in areas such as animal welfare issues arising under the Horse Protection Act, labor flexibility, tax reform, public trails access, federal resources for equine-assisted services, USDA resources to promote equine programs and others that may emerge as the legislative, process moves forward. In addition to the legislation, points are awarded to members of the U.S. Congress who support the AHC through their membership in the Congressional Horse Caucus, who participate in AHC events, and who are accessible and responsive to AHC members and staff.


The methodology used to construct the Congressional Scorecard can be accessed here.

Fire Code: NFPA 150 Proposed Revisions

Fire Code: NFPA 150 Proposed Revisions


In 2019 the National Fire Protection Association updated NFPA Code 150: Fire and Life Safety in Animal Housing Facilities Codes to include “Chapter 12 Category 2: Horse Facilities”. The updated code requires fire sprinklers to be installed in all “horse facilities used for temporary or permanent housing for horses….where horses are housed for general board and care in a small commercial or professional facility greater than 5000 ft2.”


This year NFPA has further revised NFPA 150 to include requirements for fire sprinklers in all medium CAFOs as well as horse facilities. This would essentially require any horse operation not currently covered under NFPA Chapter 12 Category 2 that exists on CAFO properties with other livestock (medium beef CAFOs consisting of 300 or more cattle) to install sprinkler systems in their barn.


States, counties, and towns adopt fire codes at will; however, the language chosen comes directly from NFPA codes. Several states currently enforce NFPA Chapter 12 Category 2 for horse facilities.


If your locality has adopted a fire code related to horse facilities, you could be at risk of having your business shut down until the property meets the appropriate code. Further, localities often have steep fines for operating outside of their legal fire codes.


Many agricultural facilities are unable to install sprinkler systems due to water access and availability issues, as well as lack of access to equipment inspectors. Further, installation comes at a great cost that is often unobtainable for many family-owned operations.


The revision is currently in review. AHC has submitted comments to NFPA recommending the updated language requiring medium CAFOs to install sprinkler systems to be struck. You can learn more about NFPA 150 at: https://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/nfpa-150-standard-development/150

Do horse farms qualify for USDA Funding?

Head of the thoroughbred horse looking over the wooden stable doors. 

Do horse farms qualify for USDA Funding?


The USDA announced a historic amount of funding recently made available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). But what is this funding for and who qualifies?


USDA and NRCS have many programs available to agriculture operators and those living in designated rural areas. These funding programs include grants for sustainable energy improvements (like solar panels), forestry and pasture management plans (time for a pasture upgrade?), and water accessibility (how were you planning to get water to that backfield anyway?).


Operators typically have to produce an “agriculture product,” for horses, this includes breeding products such as semen, embryos, and foals. If you are an operator with a mixed species property, or one who grows crops, food or fiber production also qualifies you.


Funding comes from the Farm Bill and the Inflation Reduction Act. It “will help farmers save money, create new revenue streams, enhance natural resources, and tackle the climate crisis.”


Investment in climate-smart agriculture has been a key goal of the Inflation Reduction Act and the upcoming Farm Bill. The most recent funding announcement will be disseminated through the RCPP Classic and Alternative programs through the NRCS. Opportunities to apply for funding are available to small businesses, nonprofit organizations, and more.


The RCPP promotes the coordination of NRCS conservation activities with partners that offer value‑added contributions to address on-farm, watershed, and regional natural resource concerns. Through the RCPP, NRCS seeks to co-invest with partners to implement projects that provide solutions to conservation challenges thereby measurably improving the resource concerns they seek to address. RCPP promotes collaboration with partners, stakeholders, and various communities, which is paramount to achieving equity in NRCS programs and services.


RCPP is a partner-driven approach to conservation that funds solutions to natural resource challenges on agricultural land. By leveraging collective resources and collaborating on common goals, RCPP demonstrates the power of public-private partnerships in delivering results for agriculture and conservation.


RCPP projects may include a range of on-the-ground conservation activities implemented by farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners. These activities include:

  • Land management/land improvement/restoration practices
  • Land rentals
  • Entity-held easements
  • United States-held easements
  • Public works/watersheds


A single RCPP project application can propose to employ any combination of these eligible activity types as part of an RCPP project. RCPP projects must be carried out on agricultural or nonindustrial private forest land or associated land on which NRCS determines an eligible activity would help achieve conservation benefits (i.e., improved condition of natural resources resulting from implementation of conservation activities).


If you don’t have a project that qualifies to apply for RCPP funding, there may be other opportunities for you! Reach out to your local USDA office to learn more: https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app

Appropriations Moving Forward

Appropriations Moving Forward

 


Congress passed, and the President signed H.R. 4366, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2024, which provides funding for the following six bills: Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies; Energy and Water Development; Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies; Transportation, House and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.

 


Provisions of interest include:

 

  • $3.5 million appropriation for the administration and enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. AHC requested a funding level of $4 million. The Horse Protection Act is a federal law that prohibits sored horses from participating in shows, exhibitions, sales, or auctions. It also prohibits the transportation of sored horses to or from any of these events.
  • Continued de-funding of horse slaughter.
  • The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program was allocated $10 million.
  • $15 million was allocated to fund the implementation of a controversial program to provide electronic tagging of cattle in the U.S.

 


Next up is the 2024 package of appropriations for Defense, Financial Services-General Government, Homeland Security, Labor-HHS-Education, Legislative Branch, and State-Foreign Operations. This tranche has a deadline of Friday, March 22.

 


Speculation continues around the fate of the Farm Bill. There is a push to take it up after the remaining 2024 appropriation bills clear, but negotiations over nutrition and climate programs remain contentious.

 


The Biden Administration has released its Fiscal Year 2025 budget requests, which we will review in an upcoming newsletter.

Labor Shortage

Labor Shortage

 


“The bottom line is that we need a migrant worker program that respects and enforces our immigration laws while providing these industries with the workforce they need.”

 


That headline sums up the mission of the Agricultural Labor Working Group (ALWG) formed by the House Agriculture Committee, which just released its final report.

 


The ALWG identified the factors contributing to a shortage of domestic workers and the impact this shortage is having on farms and ranches. The study focused on the H-2A visa program for non-immigrant agricultural workers.

 


Key findings and recommendations are based on extensive stakeholder input gathered during roundtable sessions and additional consultations. The report breaks down the policy recommendations into three categories: those that earned unanimous consent, those with majority support, and recommendations that were excluded.

 


Some of the recommendations were adopted with unanimous support include:

 

  • Simplifying and streamlining the application process.
  • Granting year-round industries access to the H-2A program
  • Federal Heat Standard for H2-A workers
  • Wage reform

 


The ALWG hopes this report will guide public policy development and result in effective, targeted bipartisan legislation.

 


The report is a quick read. Let us know what you think at info@horsecouncil.org

 

“Gig” worker, farmhand, independent contractor, or employee?

“Gig” worker, farmhand, independent contractor, or employee?

 


Employers need to sort that out as of March 11, 2024, to be in compliance with a Department of Labor (DOL) rule requiring employers to engage in a six-factor test for determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The new regulation expands the reach of federal labor laws requiring employers to extend benefits and protections to workers, who, according to a complicated six-point checklist, may have to be reclassified from independent contractors to employees. For employers, this means significant increases in payroll costs to cover overtime pay, minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and Social Security benefits.

 


For the workers, it means a loss of flexibility, portability, and training opportunities. Independent contractors are a big part of the horse industry. Some of the jobs that would be most affected by this new rule change include farriers, trainers, jockeys, braiders, veterinarians, and other stable services. This rule change could force some of the smaller barns to alter the way that they do business.

 


Read more about how the rule may impact the equine industry in an Op/ed by Julie Broadway, President of the American Horse Council.

 


The DOL issued guidance that will help in applying these factors and making determinations on whether a worker can lawfully be classified as an independent contractor.

 


Employers, Members of Congress, and a business coalition are all pushing back on the regulation arguing against it on several fronts including that it is an overreach of authority, overly burdensome, and unconstitutional.