Due to the wording in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency handbook, dozens of Central Kentucky farms that suffered significant damage from a January ice storm will not receive any relief from the organization.
Five months after horse industry officials lobbied for funds from the USDA's Emergency Conservation Program to help cover farm property damage, the USDA delivered its negative news.
In a letter to Kentucky Thoroughbred Association executive director David Switzer from USDA secretary Thomas Vilsack, it states, “Legislative changes under the 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Act and the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 that expand assistance to certain livestock operations for specific FSA programs are not applicable to the Agricultural Credit Act of 1978, the authorizing language for ECP. The current regulations and handbook guidance for ECP limit the definitions of agricultural producers and livestock as outlined below.”
According to the handbook, “Producers of animals raised for recreational uses only are not considered agricultural producers. Animals that are ineligible include those used for recreational activities or recreational business, such as race horses, pack animals, rodeo stock, and polo ponies, animals running wild or uncontrolled on the range, or animals maintained for slaughter purposes other than human consumption, such as glue or fur. USDA is not currently considering a change to this policy.”
Switzer said the KTA's next step will be to try and get the language in the FSA handbook changed so that commercially used equine will be included in future disasters.
“I’m sorry to be delivering this final position,” said Switzer in a statement. “Many thanks to Jay Hickey of the American Horse Council, Gov. Beshear, and Roger Thomas of the Governor’s Office for Agricultural Policy for their assistance in trying to get a favorable decision.”