On Tuesday, October 22 and Wednesday, October 23, horse industry representatives gathered in Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers and advocate for passage of the industry’s top legislative priorities. During a meeting at the Capitol with leaders of the Congressional Horse Caucus and other industry allies on October 22, members learned more about positive developments related to a funding boost for equine assisted therapy (EAT), the status of guest worker visa legislation to alleviate chronic labor shortages, and bills to improve access to the nation’s public trails. During the two day meeting series, horse industry advocates met with more than 30 federal lawmakers and their staff, and two Administration officials representing the U.S. Forest Service. Below are summaries of highlights emerging from the Fall “Ride-In.”
Equine Assisted Therapy Continues to Gain Spotlight as a Win-Win for Heroes and Horses
For the second year in a row, Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) briefed horse industry representatives on the latest boost to EAT funding included in a House appropriations bill currently moving through the legislative process. Rep. Barr (R-KY) spoke passionately about the dual benefits to veterans returning to civilian life, and the opportunities for working horses to have “second careers” as therapeutic animals. From his new post on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Mr. Barr is expanding his role as a leader on EAT issues. Studies show that EAT can effectively treat post-traumatic stress disorder that afflicts many U.S. veterans.
Congressional Allies Continue to Fight for Guest-Worker Visa Flexibility
Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Congressional Horse Caucus discussed his provision in the FY2020 DHS spending bill to address the stringent 66,000 cap imposed on the issuance of H-2B visas by providing an exemption for returning workers. This “returning worker” exemption not only provides much needed cap relief, but will reduce red tape for seasonal employers. Unlike last year’s provision, the Harris Amendment removes agency to discretion to limit issuance of authorized visas over the statutory cap, a measure which should provide more real-world flexibility for industry employers.
Will Trails Legislation Cross the Finish Line?
House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Rob Bishop (R-UT) lauded the fact that his signature trails bill, the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act of 2019 (H.R. 1225), has gained more than 300 co-sponsors in the House. Mr. Bishop, however, expressed skepticism about whether the bill would receive a vote on the House floor, and urged members to contact Democratic House leadership and urge them to move the bill. Complimenting Rep. Bishop’s remarks, Mr. Rick Cooksey and Ms. Toby Bloom from the U.S. Forest Service shared an update on the agency’s backlog maintenance priorities.
Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act Gains Supporters in the Senate
In the wake of an historic victory in the House where the PAST Act won overwhelming support in late July, horse industry representatives focused their efforts on the Senate side, where the companion bill, S. 1007, has gained 46 cosponsors. While next steps for this important equine welfare measure remain uncertain, the horse industry is committed to driving up the number of cosponsors.
Next Steps - Outlook 2020
Fortunately for the horse industry, many of the sector’s top legislative priorities remain largely bipartisan. This bodes well for continued, effective advocacy during the 2020 election year, moving priorities such as EAT funding and public trails access closer to the finish line. If you’d like more information related to the meeting series and next steps, please contact Bryan Brendle at email@example.com or 202-296-4031.
About the American Horse Council
As the national association representing all segments of the horse industry in Washington, D.C., the American Horse Council works daily to represent equine interests and opportunities. Organized in 1969, the AHC promotes and protects the industry by communicating with Congress, federal agencies, the media and the industry on behalf of all horse related interests each and every day.
The AHC is member supported by individuals and organizations representing virtually every facet of the horse world from owners, breeders, veterinarians, farriers, breed registries and horsemen's associations to horse shows, race tracks, rodeos, commercial suppliers and state horse councils.
Contact: Bryan Brendle
American Horse Council