Microchips, Equine Genomics on Horse Council Agenda

Edited press release

The American Horse Council 2006 National Issues Forum will feature an all-day meeting of the Equine Species Working Group as well as a discussion on equine genomics, funding for which could be included in the next farm bill authored by Congress.

The National Issues Forum will be held April 2-5 in Washington, D.C. Various AHC committees and the State Horse Council Advisory Committee will meet April 3, with a general session set for April 4. Congressional visits are scheduled for April 5.

The Equine Species Working Group, which is providing input to the National Animal Identification System, will meet April 2. The group is charged with crafting the horse industry's position on microchips, use of which eventually will be mandatory for horses.

Part of the general session will be devoted to genomics, which is the study of complex molecular chains that constitute an organism's unique genetic heritage. Gene mapping, or DNA mapping, has broad ramifications for horses in regard to breeding, care, and health research.

Federal funding is needed to supplement private funding to support continued research. In a release, the AHC called for financial support from the horse industry because funds for equine genomics could be included in the 2007 farm bill.

"The horse industry must let Congress know that there is support for mapping the genes of horses," AHC president Jay Hickey said. "Congress must be told the benefits that can be realized from this research to an industry that involves 9.2 million horses, has an economic impact of $102 billion on the U.S. economy, and supports 1.4 million jobs, according to the American Horse Council national economic study."

The AHC said the United States Department of Agriculture supports research on agriculturally-important animals, including the horse, and though support has been provided for horse genomics research, it lags significantly behind research for cattle, chickens, pigs, sheep, and aquaculture. One reason is the small size of the research community involved with horses; another is an emphasis on "food and fiber animals," which the horse is not, the AHC said.

"However, the largest problem is the perception within the USDA that the horse industry does not support the use of genomics in research," Hickey said. "Members of the horse industry need to articulate support for horse genomics as a lynch-pin in solving many of the major problems of equine health and welfare."