The 45th annual meeting of the American Horse Council held in Washington, D.C., in late June, drew nearly 200 attendees including industry leaders from 50 organizations, members of Congress and staff, and federal regulatory agency staff.
"We had our best attendance in quite a few years," said AHC president Jay Hickey in an AHC press release July 2. "We think that is because of the importance of the issues facing all segments of the horse industry before Congress and the federal agencies. We also think the topic of this year's national issues forum, 'Where Have All the Horses Gone?' attracted great interest."
Probably the most-discussed legislation was the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (PAST Act), which was before the AHC's Animal Welfare Committee and Horse Show Committee, but brought up at several others, too.
"The AHC, along with all major breed registries and horse show organizations, supports the bill, which now has 296 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 57 cosponsors in the Senate. That position of support was reaffirmed at the meetings," noted Hickey, "so we will redouble our efforts to get it passed. But even with that number of Congressional cosponsors, we still need more help from the horse community at large to get it over the finish line."
Hickey said taxes were an important topic during the annual meeting.
Several favorable tax provisions applicable to horses and assets used in the horse business expired or dropped in value at the end of 2013. This includes the Section 179 expense deduction, which went from $500,000 to $25,000; bonus depreciation, which went from 50% to zero; the ability to depreciate all race horses over three years, rather than over seven; and the higher limits for contributions of real property for conservation purposes by farmers and ranchers.
"Legislation to extend all these provisions is being considered by Congress and the AHC supports such extensions. We are hopeful any extensions will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2014," said Hickey.
In addition to the reinstatement of three-year-depreciation for all race horses, the AHC Racing Committee also discussed efforts to have the Department of Treasury re-characterize the definition of a wager so that fewer wagers are subject to withholding.
Current federal bills to legalize and regulate, or simply prohibit, Internet wagering were reviewed. The AHC was directed to ensure that if any legislation is considered in Congress it protects what the racing industry is now offering under the Interstate Horseracing Act.
In the equine health area, attendees received reports on the Equine Veterinary Mobility Act, which would allow veterinarians to transport medications deemed "controlled substances" to farms, tracks, shows, and events without fear of violating the Controlled Substances Act.
"This critical legislation has passed the Senate and should get to the House floor for a vote," said Hickey. "If we can get it to the floor, it should pass and eliminate veterinarians' concerns about the Drug Enforcement Agency finding a violation should vets take medications out of their offices to administer to horses."
In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed several changes to the import-export regulations. The Health and Regulatory Committee was updated by USDA staff on the latest rule change proposal that would eliminate Saudi Arabia from the list of countries with African Horse Sickness and make it easier for horses to be imported from that country.
As with any changes to the import rules, the industry wants to facilitate the international movement of horses, "but not at the expense of protecting the U.S. horse population," said Hickey. "This meeting allowed the AHC Health and Regulatory Committee to discuss this proposal and prepare to submit comments to USDA by mid-August on the proposed rule change."
Finally, the AHC's Recreation Committee discussed the recent introduction of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (H.R. 4886), which would direct the Forest Service to address the current trail maintenance backlog that is adversely affecting trail users, including equestrians.
"The AHC, along with the Back Country Horsemen of America and the Wilderness Society, was significantly involved in the drafting and introduction of this bill. We are all for it," said Hickey.
The AHC annual meeting also was an opportunity for the AHC's Coalition of State Horse Councils to meet and discuss state issues and activities thoroughly. The AHC's Van Ness Award, presented to an outstanding person associated with state councils, was presented to Paul Briney of Illinois at a luncheon June 24.
For additional Blood-Horse coverage of the annual AHC meeting, please see: