Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has encouraged Ann Veneman, Secretary of Agriculture within the Bush administration, to pay special attention to horses, characterizing them as "Kentucky's number one agriculture moneymaker."According to the American Horse Council, McConnell's concern for the horse industry was addressed to Veneman during the then-Secretary designate's confirmation hearing on Jan. 18.Recommending to Veneman that there be more research into causes and cures of equine diseases, McConnell noted that the health of domestic horses and the ability of Americans to import and export horses are vital to the industry. According to the AHC, McConnell specifically cited West Nile Virus and Contagious Equine Metritis as having dramatically affected the health and welfare of the horse industry.These diseases have "basically shut down the international movement of horses for breeding and competition at various times," McConnell said. The McConnell also encouraged the agriculture department to ensure import facilities and import regulations remain strong, while also remaining flexible enough to allow the international trade of horses. "I want to make sure that the horse industry remains strong and vibrant," McConnell said. "It is encouraging to have Kentucky's senior Senator and a member of the Republican leadership draw attention to the importance and needs of the horse industry," said AHC president Jay Hickey. "There is a new opportunity for the industry to work with the Bush Administration to solve problems that have plagued our industry for years."