This page is made possible through the generous support of...

Items filtered by date: June 2020

Here, courtesy of the American Horse Council, is an update on Congress' funding of some programs affecting the horse industry, including enforcement of anti-soring regulations, and the Pet & Women Safety Act.

House Appropriations Committee Approves FY-2021 Ag Appropriations Bill

The House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2021 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies bill by voice vote. The legislation funds agencies and programs within the Department of Agriculture, the Farm Credit Administration, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Food and Drug Administration. Total discretionary funding in the legislation is $23.98 billion, an increase of $487 million above the FY 2020 enacted level. In total, the bill allows for $153 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding, an increase of $331 million above the FY 2020 enacted level.

The Committee provided an increase of $2,300,000 for the Equine, Cervid, and Small Ruminant Health Program with APHIS-USDA. The package includes $3 million in funding for the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act that American Horse Council provided significant input on in the 2018 Farm Bill, and $2 million in funding for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA) of 1970. The HPA amount represents a doubling in funding for enforcement of the law against horse soring. The FY2021 bill also maintains the current ban on horse slaughter in the United States by defunding the inspection of horse slaughter plants on U.S. soil–a provision that's been regularly maintained by the Congress since the last U.S. based plants were shuttered in 2007.

Also included in the final House Bill was a statement concerning the HPA-”The Secretary is strongly urged to reinstate and publish the final rule, Horse Protection; Licensing of Designated Qualified Persons and Other Amendments (Docket No. APHIS–2011–0009), as it was finalized and displayed in advance public notice in the Federal Register on January 19, 2017, with effective dates adjusted to reflect the delay in implementation.”

As well as the following reminders to Sec. Perdue-”The Committee provides $2,000,000 for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act of 1970 and reminds the Secretary that Congress granted the agency primary responsibility to enforce this law.” and,” The Committee also encourages the OIG to audit and investigate USDA enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, the Horse Protection Act, and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act to help improve compliance with these important laws. “

The American Horse Council will continue to follow this as it moves through the Senate and Executive branch. If you have any questions please contact Cliff Williamson at cwilliamson@horsecouncil.org.

Published in Legislative

Here, courtesy of the American Horse Council, is an update on some immigration issues facing the horse industry.

House Moves Toward H-2B Flexibility as Administration Suspends New Visas

On July 15, the House Appropriations Committee passed by voice vote an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 spending bill to allow the agency to issue supplemental H-2B visas above the 66,000 statutory cap during FY2021. This provision is identical to language included in current law, whereby DHS has the discretion to effectively double the number of H-2B visas, using peak “returning worker exemption” numbers as a benchmark. To address obvious concerns related to the current state of the job market, each co-sponsor argued that DHS should have the flexibility to authorize the hiring of more H-2B workers since no-one can predict the state of the economy in 2021.

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers spoke in favor of H-2B flexibility, including Reps. Pingree (D-ME), Cuellar (D-TX) and Harris (R-MD), who co-sponsored the amendment. Congressional Horse Caucus member Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) also spoke in favor of H-2B visa flexibility. Notably, two members of the committee made statements opposing the bill. This included Rep. Fortenberry (R-NE), who believed that guest workers would displace summertime, teenage workers, and Rep. Roybal-Allard (D-CA), who raised process concerns. She argued that only the authorizing committee - in this case the House Judiciary Committee - can make substantive changes to guest worker programs.

While Congress moves toward flexibility, the Administration is moving in a different direction. On June 22, the Administration issued a proclamation announcing that it would suspend issuance of new non-immigrant visas, including the H-2B visa program that supports racetracks and other seasonal operations, through the end of 2020. Prior to this action, on April 22, the Administration suspended entry of certain green card candidates into the country for a period of 60 days, citing economic conditions arising from COVID-19.

On June 22, White House officials conducted a conference call with representatives from the business community to review highlights from the president’s directive. According to White House staff, the proclamation is a “temporary pause” and applies only to applications for new work permits. It will not impact guest workers already holding valid, H-2B visas. The Administration also included an exemption for H-2B workers who “provide temporary labor … essential to the U.S. food supply chain.” Moving forward, the White House stated that it would review the proclamation and issue modifications as needed within 30 days, and “every 60 days thereafter while this proclamation is in effect.” To that end, AHC will keep you posted on possible modifications to the 2020 program, and a path forward for 2021 as appropriations bills move forward.

Details: Contact Bryan Brendle at bbrendle@horsecouncil.org.

Published in Legislative