Anne M. Eberhardt

Federal Shutdown Could Impact Horse Industry

Border inspections of horses traveling to and from the U.S. are deemed essential.

The shutdown of non-essential federal government operations as a result of the lack of agreement in Congress over a federal funding bill could impact certain aspects of the horse industry.

According to an American Horse Council memorandum issued Sept. 30, the shutdown could affect the U.S Department of Agriculture's response to disease outbreaks, procedures for the import and export of horses, recreation on federal land, and temporary worker programs.

The AHC reported that the USDA's border inspections of horses traveling to and from the U.S. are deemed essential and will have no lapse in service. Likewise, equine import, export, and quarantine facilities are run on a user-fee basis and will continue to operate as usual during the period.

Testing at the National Veterinary Service Lab in Ames, Iowa, will be suspended, according to the AHC memorandum, though tests which are pending during the shutdown will be finished. All incoming tests will be suitably stored by USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service staff and processed at a later date. In case of a disease outbreak, high-priority tests will be done on a case-by-case basis.

The AHC said USDA's enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, and the slaughter horse transport program regulations, will likely be impacted the government shutdown.

The government shutdown would also impact many equestrians who use federal land for recreational opportunities as the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management will close and secure park, refuge, and visitor facilities on public lands. National Forest recreation sites across the U.S., which require a government employee to stay open, are also closed to the public.

A government shutdown would halt the processing of applications for both the H-2A temporary agricultural worker and H-2B non-agricultural temporary worker programs and delay or prevent many employers in the horse industry from obtaining workers when they are needed. Visas for foreign competitors at U.S. equine events could also be delayed by the shutdown, according to the AHC.