Monday, May 14, 2018

Farm Bill amendment revives drive for Horse Protection Act revisions; Walking horse pad stacks, action devices would be outlawed by 2020

horse protection act amendment to farm bill

If an amendment to the Farm Bill in the US House of Representatives survives a Rules Committee review this week, the horse industry in the United States could see a much-anticipated end to Walking horse show shoeing practices connected to the illegal practice of “soring”.

Soring is the intentional causing of pain to enhance the animated gait of the distinctive American Tennessee Walking horse and related breeds. Soring is already outlawed by the existing Horse Protection Act, but activists have campaigned vigorously for a considerable stiffening of prohibited equipment known as "action devices", including hoof pad stacks and pastern chains. Without pad stacks, the action of the Walking horse's show gaits would be less dramatic.

Farm Bill amendment filed
On Friday, May 11, US Representative Tom Marino (R-PA), joined by Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), filed an amendment to H.R. 2—Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, also known as “the House Farm Bill”. Their amendment would pick up several components of the proposed Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act legislation, which has been stalled in Congressional committee stages.

Marino's amendment, one of 11 bi-partisan submissions among more than 100 add-ons to the House Bill, turns back the clock to December 2016, a few weeks before the inauguration of President Trump, when an executive action document failed to be entered into the Federal Register in time to meet the deadline before the transition to a new administration. The document dictates sweeping changes to the existing Horse Protection Act, which governs the federal enforcement of measures to protect Walking horses from painful practices, primarily to their feet and limbs.

Marino’s proposed amendment instructs Secretary of Agriculture and former veterinarian, Sonny Perdue to file the document and instructs it to be published, almost 18 months later, in the Federal Register.

The amendment would outlaw the use of pad stacks and chains in the showing of Tennessee Walking horses by a date, depending on when (and if) the Farm Bill is signed by President Trump; changes in the show ring are estimated to take place sometime in 2020. The Marino amendment would not, however, re-structure the Horse Industry Organization (HIO) provisions of the current Horse Protection Act.

“The next step is for the House Rules Committee to hear testimony on the amendment this coming Tuesday,” said Humane Society of the United States Senior Advisor Marty Irby on Friday.

The amendment faces many “if” challenges in the coming months:
  • If the amendment passes its committee review in the House of Representatives this week;
  • If the amended Farm Bill is approved by the House;
  • If the Senate Farm Bill moves forward and eventually goes to conference with the House bill;
  • If a resulting final bill--including Marino's amendment--is approved; and
  • If President Trump signs the final bill.
If all those conditions allow the amendment to remain attached to the Farm Bill, pad stacks and chains would ultimately be outlawed from Walking horse shows.

Marino’s amendment and indeed much of the agriculture-related provisions of the new Farm Bill are small players in the much bigger picture of the bill in Congress, since the Farm Bill -- all 639 pages of it -- also governs the administration of the federal food stamp program, which Republican lawmakers are attempting to alter.

New work requirements tied to the receipt of food stamps are expected to be the focus of bitter fighting over the Farm Bill in the weeks to come.

A timeline for the procedural progress of the bill, according to Irby, would include monitoring the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill; should the Senate manage to pass a Farm Bill, it would possibly go to conference with the House of Representatives in July. Given the August Congressional recess, a vote on a final bill might happen in September.

If Congress fails to enact a new Farm Bill, it could vote to extend the current bill.

The House Rules Committee plans to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons this week. Live videostreaming is usually available at this link.

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