Think the horse industry doesn’t have a large impact on the U.S. economy? Think again. According to figures presented by the American Horse Council in 2005, we have a far-reaching effect:
• There are 9.2 million horses in the United States in all 50 states.
• 4.6 million Americans are involved in some aspect of the horse industry—as an owner, service provider, employee and/or volunteer.
• The horse industry has a 39 billion dollar direct effect on the U.S. economy.
• When you consider the multiplier effect of spending by horse people on related goods, the economic impact jumps to $102 billion.
• The industry provides 460,000 full time equivalent jobs.
• The horse industry pays $1.9 billion annually in taxes to all levels of government.
Who Represents Us?
It is the official role of the American Horse Council (AHC) to promote and protect “all horse breeds, disciplines and interests by communicating with Congress, federal agencies, the media and the industry itself each and every day.” AHC’s membership includes 160 organizations and 1,200 individual members.
According to Jay Hickey, president of the AHC, currently there are three main legislative fronts requiring lobbying efforts: gambling, immigration and taxes. In addition to these efforts, there are several other equine issues on the national stage.
While complete immigration reform was important and a major pre-election topic for President Obama, Hickey does not see it being brought up in 2009. The AHC supports immigration reform to facilitate a way to bring in workers and legalize those that are already here.
Currently, there is a cap of 66,000 H-2B visas issued annually, and this year that cap was reached on January 7, causing a dire shortage of workers for many industries, including the horse industry. The H-2B visas allow foreign, specialized workers to come in for an 18-month stint for a specific function. In February 2009, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MO) and Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) introduced the Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2009. Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. Under the proposed acts, workers who had an H-2B visa in any of the three previous fiscal years would be exempt from the cap. However, this exemption will expire three years after the bill is enacted. Still, this would allow for more individuals to receive the work visa, and give Congress additional time to craft a more permanent solution. The AHC supports this legislation.
Economic Stimulus Bill
The horse industry has received numerous benefits from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, otherwise known as the stimulus bill. Those who purchase a horse or other business property and put it into service in 2009 can expense up to $250,000 of the cost. This applies to horses, farm equipment and other depreciable property. If the total purchase is $800,000 or more, the expense allowed decreases by $1 for every dollar spent over $800,000. Owners are allowed to depreciate horses over three years instead of up to seven years.