Congress Approves Bill to Fund Government

On Dec. 13, 2014, an omnibus appropriations bill, which will fund the government through Sept. 30, 2015, was passed by Congress. This bill is a package that includes parts of the FY 2015 appropriations bills, except Homeland Security, and will fund most government agencies and programs until the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2015.

The omnibus bill contains several provisions that impact the horse industry, including the U.S. Department Agriculture (USDA) FY 2015 appropriations bill.

Normally, Congress debates and approves separate appropriation bills for each federal agency. However, Congress has been unable to pass any individual FY 2015 appropriations bills and has been relying on a Continuing Resolution (CR) that is an extension of previous bills to keep the government operating. This omnibus bill will keep the government open.

FY 2015 USDA Appropriations

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Equine Health The bill appropriates $871.3 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). APHIS is the USDA agency responsible for protecting the U.S. equine industry and responding to contagious equine disease outbreaks. Funding for Equine, Cervid, and Small Rumiant health is set at $19.5 million, the same as FY 2014.

Horse Slaughter The bill includes language that prohibits USDA from using any funds to provide inspectors at meat processing facilities that slaughter horses, continuing a block that begin in 2005, except for a brief period in 2012 and 2013.

No horse slaughter facilities are operating in the U.S., and this bill would effectively prevent any such facility from opening until Sept. 30, 2015.

The language was included in the omnibus bill because both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees adopted amendments that prohibited funding for inspectors at horse slaughter facilities when they debated and approved their respective versions of the FY 2015 USDA appropriations bill. The Senate amendment was offered by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC); the House amendment was offered by Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA).

Horse Protection Act

The bill provides $697,000 for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, the same as FY 2014.

Wild Horses and Burros

The omnibus bill also includes a provision that would prohibit the Bureau of Land Management from euthanizing healthy wild horses in its care or from selling wild horses or burros that results in their being processed into commercial products.

EPA and Corps Interpretive Rule

Earlier this year the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) issued an “interpretive rule” (IR) regarding the Clean Water Act (CWA) exemptions for agricultural discharges of dredge and fill materials into “Waters of the U.S.” that was made effective immediately. For the first time the IR limited the exemption for agricultural discharges of dredge and fill materials to 56 specified conservation practices. Previously, it was understood that the exemption applied to all “normal farming, silviculture and ranching activities, such as plowing, seeding, cultivating, minor drainage, harvesting for the production of food, fiber, and forest products, or upland soil and water conservation practices.” The AHC opposed the IR because it could place new constraints on horse farms and ranches.

The bill would require the EPA and Corp to withdraw the IR and prohibit requiring a permit for dredge and fill material.

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act

The bill also extends the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) until Sept. 30, 2016. FLREA is the authorizing legislation that allows the federal land management agencies to charge fees, but also limits when fees can be charged and how those fees are used.

The bill is expected to be signed by the President shortly.

For more information visit the American Horse Council’s website.

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