Language that calls for low-interest loans for owners and breeders impacted by mare reproductive loss syndrome is included in a farm bill now under consideration by the House Agriculture Committee. The bill may be ready the week of July 30.
A provision in the legislation would provide loans of up to $500,000 under certain conditions: applicants must derive 70% of income from the horse business, and have suffered a 30% loss of foals from mares owned or boarded. The farm bill's total value is $168 million.
"It's going to be pretty hard to meet all the qualifications, but this is not a hand-out program," said David Switzer, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association.
The provision in the farm bill is necessary because the equine industry "is in a limbo situation as fair as getting federal aid for disaster relief," Switzer said.
When the final numbers are tallied, Kentucky expects a 5% loss of 2001 foals, and up to a 25% loss of 2002 foals. The total economic impact could be in excess of $400 million for the two-year period.
During a July 24 hearing on the state of Kentucky's equine industry, Switzer said more information will be available in October, when many farmers apply for loans for 2002. They must put up collateral, and broodmares who lost foals would be appraised at a lower value.
Meanwhile, research continues into the cause of the syndrome. If the cause isn't determined, the industry could take another hit should owners decide not to breed or board mares in Central Kentucky.