National Forest Trail Bill Approved by House Agriculture Committee

Update from the American Horse Council

Last week, the House Committee on Agriculture unanimously approved the National Forest Service Trail Stewardship Act of 2015 (H.R.845). The bill, introduced by Congresswomen Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Tim Walz (D-MN), would direct the Forest Service to take several actions to help address the current trail maintenance backlog that is adversely impacting all trail users on many national forests, including equestrians. The American Horse Council, Backcountry Horsemen of America, and the Wilderness Society were significantly involved in the creation of this bill.

A June 2013, study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Forest Service has deferred trail maintenance needs that exceed half-billion dollars, and only one-quarter of the agency’s 158,000 miles of trails meets agency standards for maintenance. This maintenance backlog is causing access and safety issues for equestrians and all trail users on national forests.

The National Forest Service Trail Stewardship Act would direct the Forest Service to develop a strategy to more effectively utilize volunteers and partners to assist in maintaining national forest trails. It will also provide outfitters and guides the ability to perform trail maintenance activities in lieu of permit fees. Additionally, the bill would address a liability issue that has discouraged some national forests from utilizing volunteers and partner organizations to help perform trail maintenance and would direct the Forest Service to identify and prioritize specific areas with the greatest need for trail maintenance in the national forest system.

In the current fiscal environment it is unlikely Congress will appropriate additional funds to directly address the trail maintenance backlog. This bill will help improve trail maintenance without the need for additional funding.

The AHC is pleased the House Committee on Agriculture has approved this important legislation.

The bill must now be considered by the full House.

Senate Committee Approves USDA Appropriations Bill

American Horse Council Update

Last week, the Senate 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

Horse Slaughter
Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) offered an amendment to prohibit funding for USDA inspections at U.S. horse slaughter facilities that was adopted by a voice vote. This prohibition will prevent horse slaughter facilities from operating in the U.S. if this bill is signed into law.

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 was adopted by the House Appropriations Committee when it approved the House version of the USDA appropriations bill.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Equine Health
The bill would provide $939 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 Ruminant health would be set at $19.7 million, this is a $200,000 increase over FY 2015.

Horse Protection Act
The bill provides $706,000 for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act a $9,000 increase over FY 2016 funding.

The bill must now be approved by the full Senate.

Favorable Horse Provisions in Tax Extender Bill Passed by Congress

Congress has passed a tax extender bill called the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 that includes several provisions important to the horse industry and supported by the American Horse Council.

At the end of 2014, a number of favorable tax provisions for horse owners, breeders and businesses expired. In all, over sixty tax provisions expired; some applied to all businesses, including the horse industry, and one was specifically applicable to owners of race horses. All of the provisions extended are retroactive for all of 2015.

Importantly, the bill would reinstate 3-year-depreciation for all race horses for two more years. From 2009 through 2014, race horses could be depreciated over three years, regardless of when they were placed in service. This change, which eliminated the 7-year depreciation period for race horses and made all race horses eligible for three-year depreciation, expired at the end of 2014. The just passed extender bill would reinstate 3-year-depreciation for race horses placed in service after December 31, 2014 through 2016.

The bill would also increase the so-called Section 179 business expense deduction back to $500,000 and make this provision permanent. It is currently set at $25,000. This would allow anyone in the horse business to immediately depreciate up to $500,000 of the cost of any investment in business assets, including horses, purchased and placed in service. The deduction would be reduced dollar-for-dollar once investment in all one’s business activities hit $2 million.

The bill would restore bonus depreciation for qualifying new property, including assets used in the horse business, such as horses and other equipment, purchased and placed in service during 2015 through 2019. The bonus depreciation percentage is 50 percent for property placed in service during 2015, 2016 and 2017 and phases down to 40 percent in 2018, and 30 percent in 2019. The first use of the horse or equipment must begin with the taxpayer.

The extender bill would also restore and make permanent favorable tax treatment for land donated for conservation purposes, particularly land donated by farmers and ranchers.

The AHC supported the tax extender bill and originally achieved the 3-year-depreciation of race horses provision in the 2008 Farm Bill and supported its inclusion in subsequent tax extension bills, including this one.

Ashley Furst
American Horse Council

Take Action to Support H-2B Program Now

Congress will need to take action on all fiscal year 2016 appropriations bills before current funding expires December 11, 2016. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Labor (DOL) appropriations bills, include important and helpful language that will make the H-2B program easier for employers to use. However, there is no guarantee this language will be included in the 2016 appropriations package or “Omnibus bill” that is being negotiated now and action is need immediately.

The H-2B program is used by members of the horse industry, principally horse trainers and owners who cannot find American workers to fill semi-skilled jobs as grooms, exercise riders, and stable attendants at racetracks, horse shows, fairs and in similar non-agricultural activities.

If you, your business or members of your organization rely on H-2B workers, please contact your Senators to express support for the H-2B appropriations language that is included in the DOL and DHS appropriations bills. Urge them to sign the H-2B letter being circulated by Senators Tillis (R-NC) and Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Boustany (R-LA) that asks the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to include all of the beneficial H-2B provisions from both the House and Senate DHS and DOL bills in any final appropriations bill.

You can reach your members of Congress through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121. Once connected to your Senators’ or Representative’s office, ask to speak to the staff person who handles Department of Labor and Department Homeland Security appropriations.
Call them today and tell them;
• You support and rely on the H-2B Program.
• You support the H-2B language in the DOL and DHS appropriations bill.
• Please sign the H-2B letter that is being circulated by Senators Tillis (R-NC) and Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Boustany (R-LA).
• THE DEADLINE FOR SIGNING IS NOON ON FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6. This letter asks the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to include all of the beneficial H-2B provisions from the House and Senate Departments of Homeland Security and Labor Appropriations bills.
• Horse farms, trainers, horseshows, and others in the horse industry are often unable able to find Americans who are willing and able to take jobs as grooms, and stable attendants.
• Despite substantial efforts to recruit American workers the industry has been forced to rely on foreign workers and the H-2B temporary worker program to meet their labor needs.
• The H-2B language in the DOL and DHS appropriations bills will help ensure the H-2B program is available to the horse industry and other small and seasonal businesses.
If you have any questions please contact the American Horse Council.

American Horse Council Action Alert

Help spread the word! To share this Action Alert please copy and use the following link:

Support National Forest Trails Bill Today!
On Thursday, July 16, the Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the National Forest Service Trail Stewardship Act of 2015 (S.1110). The bill would direct the Forest Service to take several actions to help address the current trail maintenance backlog that is adversely impacting all trail users on many national forests, including equestrians. This bill is strongly supported by the American Horse Council.

AHC urges all recreational riders and trail users to call their Senators and ask them to support the National Forest Service Trail Stewardship Act of 2015 (S.1110) and to please co-sponsor this legislation.

You can reach your Senator through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121. Once connected to the Senator’s office, ask to speak to the staff person who handles public lands issues.

Call them today and tell them;
•You support the National Forest Service Trail Stewardship Act of 2015 (S.1110) and it is important to trail riders and all recreational trail users in your state.
•The Forest Service has deferred trail maintenance needs that exceed half-billion dollars. This maintenance backlog is causing access and safety issues for equestrians and all trail users on national forests.
•S. 1110 will direct the Forest Service to develop a strategy to more effectively utilize volunteers and partners to assist in maintaining national forest trails and identify and prioritize specific areas with the greatest need for trail maintenance in the national forest system.
•This bill will help improve trail maintenance without adding to the federal budget deficit.
•The bill is bi-partisan and supported by a wide range of recreational users of public land.
•Please support and co-sponsor this important legislation.

If you have any questions please contact the AHC.

Industry stats

A recent media release from the American Horse Council cites a few statistics that you need to be aware of. In outlining challenges and opportunities related to the new Congress, AHC President, Jay Hickey has this to say:

“Like most industries, the horse industry’s legislative concerns don’t break along partisan lines. The industry must work on a bi-partisan basis with Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle,” said Hickey. “The AHC and the horse industry have been working with Congress for four decades. This is a new Congress with more than 100 new members. The AHC has already called on its Congressional Cavalry to welcome both the new and returning Members of Congress and to explain the importance of the horse industry to the nation’s agricultural, economic, sporting and recreational life.”

“The horse industry has a $112 billion effect on the economy and supports 1.5 million jobs. Every state has a horse industry. Forty-five states have more than 20,000 horses. The equine community must continue to ensure that the 112th Congress recognizes that,” said Hickey.

Funding for trails in stimulus bill-an opportunity for riders

From the American Horse Council

On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This bill appropriated over $1.7 billion for the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that can be used for the maintenance and construction of trails and other infrastructure improvements on public land. Recreational riders must work with these organizations to ensure that equestrian trails are among the projects to benefit form these funds.

• The U.S. Forest Service will receive $650 million for capital improvements.

• The National Park Service will receive $ 750 million for operations, trails and maintenance.

• The BLM will get $320 million for management and construction.

The AHC has urged these federal agencies to use a significant portion of these funds for maintenance and construction of trails and other facilities that are open to equestrians. The NPS, USFS, and BLM have yet to finalize spending plans for this recently appropriated money.

Right now an opportunity exists for equestrian groups to provide input to land managers in their states and communities on how this money should be spent and what projects are important to them. Competition among projects for this funding will be intense and there is a limited window of time before final decisions are made.

The AHC encourages its member organizations and individuals who use these public lands to contact their local Ranger Districts, Forest Supervisors, BLM field or District offices and NPS Superintendents and work with them to identify projects beneficial to riders in their area. Doing this will ensure recreational riders are part of the planning process.

If you have any questions regarding this, please call the AHC: 202-296-4031.

Montana legislation update – equine slaughter/processing

The Montana House of Representatives voted 66-33 yesterday to approve and send to the Senate a piece of legislation (House Bill #418) that would authorize “investor-owned equine slaughter or processing facilities” in the state.

Benefits for horse industry in Economic Stimulus Bill


President Obama has signed into law the Stimulus Bill, which is intended to provide a jump-start to the U.S. economy. The Stimulus Act continues the bigger write-off for horses and other property purchased and placed in service during 2009. These benefits were part of the 2008 Tax Stimulus bill, but expired at the end of 2008. The Stimulus Bill also includes a few other provisions that may impact horse owners.

Expensing Allowance
The first incentive allows an owner who purchases a horse or other business property and places it in service in 2009 to expense up to $250,000 of the cost. This so-called “Section 179” expensing allowance applies to horses, farm equipment and most other depreciable property. Once total purchases of horses and other eligible property reach $800,000, the expense allowance goes down one dollar for each dollar spent over $800,000.

To illustrate the expensing allowance, assume a horse business purchases $750,000 of depreciable property in 2009, including $650,000 for horses. That business can write off $250,000 on its 2009 tax return and depreciate the balance. If instead, purchases were $900,000, the expense allowance would go down by $100,000. In either case, the amount of the purchases not expensed may also be eligible for bonus depreciation, as explained below.

Bonus Depreciation
The second incentive continues the 50% first-year bonus depreciation for horses and most other depreciable property purchased and placed in service during 2009. It applies to any property that has a depreciable life of 20 years or less. Also, the property must be new, meaning that the original use of the horse or other property must commence with the taxpayer. For a horse to be eligible, it cannot have been used for any purpose before it is purchased.

To illustrate expensing and bonus depreciation, assume that in 2009 an owner pays $500,000 for a colt to be used for racing and $50,000 for other depreciable property, bringing total purchases to $550,000. The young colt had never been raced or used for any other purpose before the purchase. The horse business would be able to expense $250,000 (as explained above), deduct another $150,000 of bonus depreciation (50% of the $300,000 remaining balance), and take regular depreciation on the $150,000 balance.

Other Provisions
State and Local Sales Taxes. The Stimulus Bill provides all taxpayers with a deduction for state and local sales and excises taxes paid on the purchase of new cars, light trucks, and recreational vehicles through 2009. The deduction phases-out for taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $125,000 and $250,000 for taxpayers filing a joint return.

NOL Carryback. Current law permits net operating losses (NOLs) to be carried back to the two years before the operating loss occurs and carried forward to the twenty years after the loss. For 2008, the bill would extend the maximum NOL carryback period to five years for small businesses with gross revenue of $15 million or less.

Estimated Tax Payment Relief. The Stimulus Bill reduces the 2009 required estimated tax payments for some small businesses.

Please call the AHC if you have any questions.
Phone: 202-296-4031

Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2009

On January 08, 2009, Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced the Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2009 (H.R. 305). The bill would prohibit the interstate transport of any horse in a double-deck truck.

This bill was also introduced in the last Congress. The bill calls for civil penalties of $100 to $500 for each violation. A separate violation occurs for each horse transported.

Congressman Kirk said he was prompted to introduce this legislation by the accident in Wadsworth, Illinois in October, 2007 involving the overturning of a double-deck cattle truck carrying 59 Belgian draft horses. Eight horses died at the scene and ten were later euthanized.

Several states have passed legislation banning the transport of horses in double-decker trucks and the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed rules to prohibit the transport of horses to slaughter in such vehicles. However, this is the first federal bill introduced prohibiting the transport of all horses in such trucks.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

If you have any questions about this bill please call the American Horse Council.

Categories: Legislation

NCSL Supports The Horse Industry

The National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL), a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the nation’s 50 states, its commonwealths and territories, recently adopted a Horse Industry policy resolution co-sponsored by Rep. Sue Wallis (R-WY), and Rep. Dave Sigdestad (D-SD).

At its annual Fall Forum in Atlanta, GA, Dec. 11-13, 2008, NCSL adopted a policy urging Congress to:
• oppose legislation that would restrict the market, transport, processing or export of horses,
• recognize the need for humane horse processing facilities in the U.S.,
• and not interfere with state efforts to establish facilities in the U.S.

The passage of the policy provides the authority for NCSL staff in Washington D.C. to lobby on Capitol Hill as it effectively establishes the position of the States, the Associated Press reports.
Lean Trimmings newsletter

Getting Involved in the 2008 Elections

Here are excerpts from the American Horse Council’s guide, which is available by request from AHC:

Why candidates care
Anyone running for federal office, whether they are running for re-election or as a new candidate, has an obvious interest in the concern of those who they will be asking to vote for them. Federal candidates want, and need, the support of their constituents and an election year is when they come to you asking for your vote and support. Without that, they cannot be elected. So 2008 is a real opportunity for the horse community to get involved and make itself, individually and collectively, important to candidates.

Why is the horse community important?
• 4.6 million Americans are involved in the horse industry;
• The constituency group is broad; there are horses in every state;
• 25% of horse owners have incomes over $100,000 annually;
• Riding, whether for showing or recreation, is a healthy activity and the industry can use national concerns about health and exercise to its advantage;
• The horse industry has an economic impact of $102 billion on the U.S. economy and supports 1.4 million full-time jobs;
• Horse owners pay $1.9 billion in taxes each year;
• The industry attracts investments of nearly $25 billion in capital equipment and structures and stimulates more than $4.1 billion in taxes and land purchases each year;
• Breeding, raising and training horses is an activity that promotes the use and preservation of public lands and parks. It is a green buffer to urban sprawl in many states. Green space is an issue in all parts of the country.

Be able to explain your issues
Specific issues that affect the horse industry are raised in each Congress as bills are introduced. But there are several areas of general concern that are of overriding importance to all segments of the horse community, which involves racing, showing and recreation and different breed and disciplines. These include:
Welfare and Safety
Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Gaming Legislation
Access to Public Lands
Movement of Horses; Diseases

Know the candidates
Visit their websites; go to town hall meetings; consider endorsements by trusted officials, groups and organizations; watch the debates; read a wide array of news sources for a variety of viewpoints.

Start a relationship
Invite a candidate to your home, farm or business;
Invite a candidate to your organization’s meeting, show or event;
Include a candidate and their family on a trail ride;
Organize a “meet and greet” for candidates;
Take advantage of campaign events in your area to have a face-to-face conversation;
Write letters to let them know what issues are important to you.
Ask candidates to complete a questionnaire about issues important to the horse community;
Invite a candidate to write something for your organization’s newsletter or publication.

Register to Vote
Follow-up after the election
Know the rules
While there are few restrictions on activities that individuals may engage in with respect to candidates running for federal office, there are limitations on what associations and corporations may do under the IRS Code and Federal Election Commission Act.

Congressional Cavalry Program

In an effort to better represent and serve the horse industry in Washington, DC, the American Horse Council and the Appaloosa Horse Club have organized a new grassroots effort entitled, “The Congressional Cavalry program.” ApHC members can participate and help to make a difference in federal legislation and regulations that affect the horse industry.

A new Congress will begin in January of 2009. If you care about the national issues that impact you and the horse community, now is the time to get involved.

All ApHC members, including owners, breeders, veterinarians, trainers, competitors, recreational riders, service providers, and others who wish to be involved in grassroots efforts in Washington are encouraged to join the Congressional Cavalry program. The purpose of the program is to enlist individuals from all segments of the horse industry and in every Congressional district who will agree to contact their Representative/Senator or federal official when asked.

Cavalry members will be mobilized when there is a need for grassroots contacts, such as letters and phone calls. Members of the program will be put on an email or fax list so they can be contacted and activated quickly. The AHC will provide participants with whatever information is necessary. Participants will be free to do as much as they feel comfortable doing.

If you want to sign up or have any additional questions about the Congressional Cavalry program, please contact the American Horse Council at 2.2-296-4031 or

Preserving Our Equine Heritage on Public Lands Act Introduced in Senate

creekFrom the American Horse Council

WASHINGTON, DC November 7, 2007 –Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced the Preserving our Equine Heritage on Public Lands Act (S. 2238) on November 1st. This bill is similar to the so-called “Right-to-Ride” bill that was introduced in the last Congress by Senator Crapo.

“Senator Crapo has been a champion of preserving riders’ access to public lands,” said American Horse Council (AHC) President Jay Hickey. “He has retooled the bill he introduced in the last Congress and we appreciate his steadfastness in introducing the legislation again. Equestrians are going to have to let Congress know that they are concerned about access to trails and public lands and that they support this bill if we hope to get it passed.”

The bill directs the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to manage the federal lands under their jurisdiction “in a manner that preserves and facilitates the continued use and access of pack and saddle stock animals” on lands on which “there is a historical tradition” of use. The bill provides that such lands “shall remain open and accessible to the use of pack and saddle stock animals” where there is such a tradition. The bill applies to the management of the National Park System, BLM lands, National Wildlife Refuge System land, and National Forest System land.

The bill does not limit the federal agencies’ ultimate authority to restrict such use, provided the agencies perform the review required under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The bill would also impose additional specific and designated procedures to be followed by agencies before any land closures. These procedures include advance notice of any proposed reduction in use to allow public comment, convening a public meeting near the area involved, and collaboration with various users during the process.

Those who enjoy riding on public lands have been concerned about the reduction of trails and public lands available to horses and pack stock. This bill recognizes the importance of saddle and pack stock in the settling, exploration and recreation of our country by ensuring that the horse’s historic and traditional use is recognized as our public lands are managed by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Forest Service.

Hickey further stated, “The AHC thanks Senator Crapo for introducing this important bill. Horses are an immensely important part of American culture, history and heritage. This bill recognizes the strength of the horse industry and helps to preserve time-honored American traditions and values.”

For more information about the American Horse Council, please visit: or call 202-296-4031.

Categories: Legislation /Regulatory

Language in USDA Appropriations Bill

From: American Horse Council
Date: July 25, 2007
Timely Response is Needed

The House of Representative is scheduled to vote on the 2008 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Appropriations bill (H.R. 3161), which would fund the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Fiscal Year 2008, early next week.

Section 738 of that bill would be devastating because it would cut-off funding for USDA activities important to the horse industry. It would eliminate funding necessary for USDA to operate quarantine facilities and to pay personnel to approve and facilitate the import and export of horses for exhibition, competition, sale or breeding. The bill would not only cut off direct funding to USDA, but also eliminate USDA’s authority to impose user fees, which support the operation of the three major USDA Animal Import Centers and the land border ports along the Canadian and Mexican borders.

We are asking AHC member organizations to contact Members of Congress from their state asking that this provision be removed.

NOTE: Although the language is an apparent attempt by proponents of legislation to end the slaughter of horses for human consumption by taking the USDA out of the process, as was done last year, the language in Section 738 would have a far broader impact and would affect the movement of all horses.

While an individual’s or organization’s position on limiting USDA’s authority to inspect horses for slaughter may be based on their position on the federal bill banning slaughter, the industry should be opposed to this overly-broad limit on USDA’s authority and economic ability to protect animal health through inspection, quarantine and oversight of the movement of all horses.

For more information, visit

*According to tax status of ApHC, we are not in the business of lobbying, but individual members are free to express themselves and to communicate directly with their representatives.

« More Past Entries