Oct. 1, 2013 — To date Congress has failed to pass any of the annual appropriation bills that fund government agencies and projects for the 2014 fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2014). Congress has also failed to come to an agreement regarding a Continuing Resolution that would continue to fund the government past the end of the current fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30 at midnight. If an agreement is not reached by that time non-essential government operations, many that impact the horse industry and equestrians, could cease. Should a shutdown occur, it could impact the U.S Department of Agriculture’s response to disease outbreaks, procedures for the import and export of horses, recreation on federal land, and temporary worker programs. At this time, government agencies are still working on their shutdown plans and determining essential and non-essential operations.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
One of the corner stones of the U.S. horse industry includes the movement of horses both internationally and domestically. The horse industry relies on USDA to maintain and operate import, export and quarantine facilities for horses traveling in and out of the United States. At this time, border inspection is deemed essential and will have no lapse in service. Import, Export and Quarantine Facilities are run on a user fee basis and will continue to operate as usual.
Testing at the National Veterinary Service Lab in Ames, Iowa, will be suspended. However, tests which are pending during the shut down will be finished. All incoming tests will be suitably stored by USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service staff and processed at a later date. In case of a disease outbreak, high priority tests will be done on a case-by-case basis.
USDA is also responsible for the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA), and the slaughter horse transport program regulations. It is likely a shutdown will impact these programs.
Many equestrians are dependent on federal land for recreational opportunities. In the event of a government shutdown, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management will close and secure park, refuge and visitor facilities on public lands. National Forest recreation sites across the United States, which require a government employee to stay open, would also be closed to the public.
Temporary Worker Programs and Visas
The horse industry relies on semi-skilled and entry-level foreign workers provided by the H-2A temporary agricultural worker and H-2B non-agricultural temporary worker programs for many of the employment needs of the horse industry. A government shutdown would halt the processing of applications for both the H-2A and H-2B programs and delay or prevent many employers in the horse industry from obtaining workers when they are needed. Visas for foreign competitors at U.S. equine events could also be delayed.
At this time, it is not certain the government will shutdown. If a shutdown does occur it could last a few hours with little impact on the industry or several weeks with greater consequences.