April 19, 2016, the House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill. This bill provides funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the 2017 fiscal year (October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2017). The bill contains several provisions that impact the horse industry, including the so-called “horse slaughter defunding provision,” funding for USDA equine health activities and enforcement of the Horse Protection Act.
FY 2016 House USDA Appropriations
Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) presented an amendment to prohibit funding for USDA inspections at U.S. horse processing facilities that was adopted by a 25 to 23 vote. Several Members spoke in support and opposition to the amendment.
Currently, No horse slaughter facilities are operating in the U.S and a prohibition on funding for inspectors at such facilities from last year’s FY 2016 USDA bill is in effect until September 30, 2016. If that prohibition expires, USDA will be required to provide inspectors and horse slaughter facilities if any were to open.
A similar defunding amendment may be offered when the Senate begins work on their version of the USDA appropriations bill.
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Equine Health
The bill would provide $931 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 $21 million, this is a $1.5 million increase over FY 2015.
Horse Protection Act
The bill provides $697,000 for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. This is the same amount that was appropriated for FY 2016. The bill must now be approved by the full House.