Economic Impact, ID Program Focus of Meeting

from the American Horse Council

The importance of the horse industry in the United States was a focus of the American Horse Council National Issues Forum in April. Horse industry leaders got the chance to meet with Ann Veneman, secretary of the Department of Agriculture.

AHC president Jay Hickey provided an overview of the economic size and importance of the horse industry in the U.S. It involves almost seven million horses, seven million people, has an economic impact of $112 billion, supports 1.4 million jobs, and pays more than $2 billion in taxes at various levels. Hickey also said the median income of horse-owning families is $60,000.

The Department of Agriculture hopes to institute a national animal identification system for livestock in case of a major disease outbreak. Several members of the AHC Task Force on Equine Identification updated Veneman on the horse industry's involvement.

Dan Fick, executive director of The Jockey Club and chair of the task force, said the horse industry held several meetings and saw benefits to a national identification system involving the horse industry, but he noted there were still many critical issues to be considered.

Dr. Jim Morehead of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and chair of the Premises ID Subcommittee of the task force said one issue is the definition of a "premises" in the horse industry. Morehead said there could be many locations involved, and that the subcommittee is trying to define such locations and identify the potential responsibilities of any "premises manager" under a national identification system.

Amy Mann, who handles legislative issues for the AHC, said the cost of a national identification system would be considerable. She suggested a need for federal funds to assist livestock sectors to set up and operate a system.

Veneman agreed there seemed to be confusion among some horse owners about the ID system. She said that a voluntary system would be initiated before any system was mandated by USDA.