On March 21, Congress passed, and the President is expected to sign, a six month Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through September 30, 2013. This bill is a package of several bills that will ensure all government agencies and programs continue to operate for the next six months. The U.S. Department Agriculture (USDA) FY 2013 appropriations bill is part of the CR and includes several provisions important to the horse industry. The CR also prohibits the Department of Labor (DOL) from implementing a new H-2B wage rule opposed by the American Horse Council (AHC). Normally, Congress debates and approves separate appropriation bills for each federal agency. However, Congress has been unable to pass any individual FY 2013 appropriations bills and has been relying on a six month CR to keep the government operating. The recently-passed bill is technically an extension of some FY 2012 appropriations bills and a package of several new FY 2013 appropriations bills, like the USDA bill.
However, because this bill does not get rid of "sequestration," funding for most federal agencies and programs will be reduced by roughly 5% from the stated appropriated amount in the bill. Sequestration is the automatic across-the-board budget cuts that went into effect on March 1, 2013 that reduces government spending by $85 billion.
FY USDA Appropriations Bill
The American Horse Council (AHC) requested an increase in funding for equine health to ensure the USDA is able respond effectively to equine disease outbreaks. The bill includes an additional $1.2 million for Equine, Cervid, and Small Rumiant health. Total funding for Equine, Cervid, and Small Rumiant health is $19.17 million. The bill specifically directs USDA to use these additional funds to "support equine veterinary medicine and related expenses."
Additionally, while no horse slaughter facilities are currently operating in the U.S., the bill will provide funding for USDA inspections if any facility were opened. For several years beginning in 2005 the USDA was prohibited from funding inspections at horse slaughter facilities, which prevented any such facility from operating in the U.S. In the FY 2012 USDA appropriations bill the prohibition on funding for USDA inspections was lifted. This bill does not contain any provisions that would prevent USDA inspections of horse slaughter faculties to resume if any were to open.
The bill provides $696,000 for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act.
DOL Wage Rule
The CR will continue to prohibit the DOL from implementing a new wage rule for the H-2B program. The new wage rule is opposed by the AHC and other H-2B users because it would significantly increase the cost of using the program. More information on the wage rule can be found at: http://www.horsecouncil.org/regulations/h-2b-wage-rule
The President is expected to sign the bill into law shortly.