Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles praised the resumption of equine exports to China at a signing ceremony in Beijing Nov. 6.
The agreement, signed by U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad and Minister Zhi Shuping of the People's Republic of China, clears the way for the U.S. to export horses, including Thoroughbreds, to China, where a rapidly expanding racing industry has emerged.
"Today's announcement is a game-changer for Kentucky's horse industry," said Quarles, who attended the signing ceremony in China. "This policy change is the result of work on the part of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and will greatly benefit our economy and workers. Today's announcement is a victory for everyone in the Bluegrass State and all of Kentucky agriculture, from those who raise horses to the farmers who supply their feed."
In 2015 the Chinese Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) placed a hold on the importation of live horses from America because of concerns about equine infectious anemia, a viral disease spread by blood-feeding insects and potentially fatal to members of the horse family.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association-Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders, the American Quarter Horse Association, Keeneland Association, U.S. Livestock Genetics Export, and Quarles worked together to address concerns in China about equine infectious anemia. The effort began with a visit to China in the fall of 2016. Earlier this year, Quarles hosted a Chinese delegation in Kentucky for a site visit.
As a result of these efforts, the USDA and AQSIQ have reached an agreement repealing this technical import barrier, clearing the way for the export of horses to China. Dipolmatic and industry leaders jointed Quarles at the signing of the agreement.
"We were pleased to work with APHIS alongside KTA-KTOB to help demonstrate the proactive and effective way that our state and national agencies protect our equine population against EIA outbreaks," said Craig Huffhines, executive vice president for the American Quarter Horse Association. "As the world's largest equine breed association, we are excited to partner with our colleagues in the People's Republic of China to support the health and vitality of the global equine industry."
"As America's leading exporter of live horses, Kentucky breeders are very pleased about China's decision to permit a resumption of trade with the United States," said Chauncey Morris, executive director of KTA-KTOB. "We are very grateful to the People's Republic of China for providing us the opportunity to demonstrate how we protect our horse population."
"Keeneland applauds the cooperation of all parties involved in re-establishing this important business link with the People's Republic of China," said Keeneland president and chief executive officer Bill Thomason. "As the world's largest Thoroughbred auction house, we at Keeneland are excited by the significant expansion opportunities it offers Kentucky's entire horse industry, especially breeders and sellers."
Kentucky is the leading American exporter of live horses, responsible for $195 million, or 65%, of the total U.S. exports of live horses.