The American Horse Council reports at this time Congress has failed to come to an agreement regarding a bill to fund the government for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year. The current Continuing Resolution funding the government is set to expire at midnight tonight. If an agreement is not reached by that time non-essential government operations, many that impact the horse industry and equestrians, could cease. Should a shutdown occur, it could impact the U.S Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) response to disease outbreaks, procedures for the import and export of horses, recreation on federal land, and temporary worker programs. At this time, government agencies are still working on their shutdown plans and determining essential and non-essential operations.
One of the cornerstones of the U.S. horse industry includes the import and export of domestic and foreign horses on both a permanent and temporary basis. The horse industry relies on USDA to maintain and operate import, export, and quarantine facilities for horses traveling into and out of the U.S. It is unclear at this time whether USDA will deem all, part, or none of these import, export, and quarantine services to be essential and therefore continue to operate in the event of a government shutdown.
USDA is also responsible for the enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA), and because the HPA is related to law enforcement activities it is likely a significant part of USDA’s services under the HPA will continue in some fashion.
Foreign animal disease (FAD) diagnosticians and incident command system (ICS) teams will be available on a case-by-case basis to respond to equine disease outbreaks and emergency response incidents should they occur.
For a complete list of USDA shutdown contingency plans, please visit the USDA website.
Many equestrians are dependent on federal land for recreational opportunities. In the event of a government shutdown, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management will close and secure park, refuge and visitor facilities on public lands. National Forest recreation sites across the U.S., which require a government employee to stay open, would also be closed to the public.
Temporary Worker Programs
The horse industry relies on many semi-skilled and entry-level foreign workers provided by the H-2A temporary agricultural worker and H-2B non-agricultural temporary worker programs for many of the employment needs of the horse industry. A government shutdown could halt the processing of applications for both the H-2A and H-2B programs and delay or prevent many employers in the horse industry from obtaining workers when they are needed.
At this time, it is not certain the government will shutdown. If a shutdown does occur it could last as little as a few hours with little impact on the industry or last several weeks with greater consequences.
If you have any questions please contact the AHC.
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