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Federal Emergency Disaster Relief For Horses

Because of the 2001 outbreak of Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome and the devastating financial loss to horse owners and breeders, the 107th Congress began examining the issue of broader disaster assistance for horse breeders. Since then the industry has been hurt by droughts, ice storms and hurricanes, just like other forms of livestock. These incidents make this inconsistency even more important.

Few horse breeders are eligible for the various forms of emergency federal assistance that producers of other livestock or crops are. While producers of horses kept for the production of food or fiber on the owner's farm are eligible for assistance under the Livestock Assistance Program, producers of other horses are not. If such other horse operations suffer a loss due to a natural disaster, or other emergency, they are not eligible for assistance from the USDA's Farm Service agency. However, if that operation has "eligible" livestock, including beef and dairy cattle, buffalo, beefalo (when maintained on the same basis as beef cattle), sheep, goats and swine, the producers would be eligible for federal relief in connection with these animals.

Natural disasters affect the horse industry just as they affect other livestock and crop producers. If a breeding farm or ranch loses horses because of floods, tornadoes or other natural disasters, it has lost its "crop" and has nothing to sell. Ranches that breed and train horses are affected by disasters just as cattle operations are. When grazing lands are lost because of drought, and feed must be purchased for horses, it is very possible that a breeder might have to sell his horse or breeding stock and horses at a distressed process because he could no longer afford to provide for them. Under these circumstances, federal emergency assistance would help some people to keep their breeding operations rather than selling them. There is no reason why horse owners and breeders should not be eligible for federal assistance like producers of other crops and livestock affected by and emergency or disaster.

The AHC supports legislation and regulatory changes to ensure that in future emergencies horse breeders will be eligible for the same emergency assistance under the same circumstances that producers of other crops and livestock have been eligible for. Broadening the current emergency assistance programs to include horses will rectify the unfair situation facing horse owners and breeders.

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