The following information was provided by the American Horse Council.
An omnibus appropriations bill that will fund the government through Sept. 30, 2014, is expected to be considered, passed and signed by the President by the end of the week. This bill is a package of all 12 annual appropriations bills and if passed will fund all government agencies and programs until the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2014. The omnibus bill contains several provisions that impact the horse industry, including the U.S. Department Agriculture (USDA) FY 2014 appropriations bill.
Normally, Congress debates and approves separate appropriation bills for each federal agency. However, Congress has been unable to pass any individual FY 2014 appropriations bills and has been relying on short term Continuing Resolutions (CRs) that are extensions of previous bills to keep the government operating. The most recent CR expires Jan. 15, 2014.
FY 2014 USDA Appropriations
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Equine Health
The bill appropriates $821.7 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). APHIS is the USDA agency responsible for protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health, including responding to contagious equine disease outbreaks. Funding for Equine, Cervid, and Small Rumiant health would be set at $19.5 million, a $300,000 increase over FY 2013.
The bill includes language that would prohibit USDA from using any funds to provide inspectors at meat processing facilities that slaughter horses. For several years beginning in 2005 the USDA was prohibited from funding inspections at horse slaughter facilities, which prevented any such facility from operating in the United States. However, the FY 2012 USDA appropriations bill lifted the prohibition on funding for USDA inspections and would have allowed horse processing to resume.
To date, no horse slaughter facilities have resumed operating in the U.S. Several are planned, but have been prevented for opening because of pending litigation. Regardless of the outcome of any ongoing litigation, this bill would prevent any facility from opening until the bill expires on Sept. 30, 2014.
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 2014 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). Both were approved on voice votes.
Horse Protection Act
The bill provides $697,000 for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act.
Wild Horses and Burros
The omnibus bill also includes a new provision that would prohibit the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from euthanizing healthy wild horses in its care or from selling wild horses or burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products. A 2004 change to the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act allowed excess wild horse and burros to be sold by the BLM without restriction if they were more than 10 years old or had been unsuccessfully offered for adoption at least three times. However, it is the current policy of the BLM not to sell or send any wild horses or burros to slaughter.
Because the current CR funding government is set to expire on the 15th of January, a short term extension of that CR is possible to give Congress enough time to pass the omnibus bill in the next few days. Congress is expect to pass the omnibus bill without amendment or further changes.