Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Senate Bills Include Horses in USDA Emergency Disaster Programs - Dec 18 2007

American Horse Council Press Release

Contact: Sarah A. Chase


WASHINGTON, DC: The Senate is scheduled to consider the 2007 farm bill in the next two weeks. That bill, and another bill that is expected to be included within the farm bill package, include provisions that would make horse owners involved in production agriculture eligible for the various disaster programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The horse industry has been working to ensure that horses are eligible for the same federal assistance that other livestock is eligible for once a disaster is declared and funds appropriated. In 2005, Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jim Bunning (R-KY) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) passed legislation making horses eligible for some federal emergency assistance programs. But the changes did not make horse breeders eligible for federal emergency loans.

On October 25th, the Senate Agriculture Committee reported out its farm bill. Through the efforts of Senators McConnell and John Thune (R-SD), this bill includes a provision making horse breeders eligible for emergency loans by including “equine farmers and ranchers” within the class of eligible farmers. Horse farms would have to comply with all other requirements imposed on other livestock producers in order to qualify for any available emergency loans.

Earlier this month, the Senate Finance Committee also reported out the Heartland, Habitat, Harvest and Horticulture Act of 2007. This bill would create and fund a permanent Agriculture Disaster Relief Trust Fund that would provide payments to farmers and ranchers who suffer losses in areas that are declared disaster areas by USDA. Through the efforts of Senator Bunning, this program includes “horses used for commercial production agriculture,” like stallions, mares, foals and yearlings, within the definition of eligible livestock.

These two bills are expected to be merged when they are considered by the full Senate, which could occur within the next few weeks. The industry has been working for some time to achieve parity for horse breeders with other livestock producers and supports these provisions.

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