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APHIS Responds to Congressman Rogers

Todd Batta, Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations with the United States Department of Agriculture sent a letter to Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), House Appropriations Chairman, on July 6, 2016 answering the letter Rep. Rogers sent to the department on May 26, 2016.  Rep. Rogers asked for an accounting of the amount obligated by APHIS in fiscal year 2015 in enforcement of the Horse Protection Act (HPA).

Batta’s letter responded to the request by stating, “Accounting for all of the agency’s HPA enforcement activities, APHIS obligated $681,000 in FY 2015 and has obligated $383,722 in FY 2016, as of June 20, 2016.”  In addition, APHIS allocated $315,560 on security at events it covered in 2015 and through June 9 of this year has spent $188,588 on security.  Batta did point out that funding for security does not come out of APHIS’ budget to enforce the HPA.  “Funding related to employee protection during horse events is included in the agency’s Physical and Operational Security line-item.  This line-item is used by APHIS to provide security when needed by any of its programs.”

Rep. Rogers asked for documented evidence of all physical threats in the last five years received by APHIS while enforcing the HPA.  Batta responded by documenting 99 threats since 2011 ranging from comments at horse shows directed toward APHIS personnel to chat room posts to large crowds watching inspections.  The reply indicated 13 threats already this year including four from the Gulf Coast Trainers’ Show and one from the Spring Fun Show.

Based on the budget items sent by Batta, the USDA averaged spending $13,096 per horse show for enforcement of the HPA on the 52 shows they attended in 2015.  Additionally, they spent $6,068 per show attended on security.  Combined the USDA spent $19,164 per horse show attended in 2015. 

The USDA recently submitted proposed rulemaking to the Office of Management and Budget.  It is thought to include a provision that would eliminate the industry Horse Industry Organizations, similar to the one included in the PAST Act.  The HSUS, which drafted the PAST Act for Rep. Ed Whitfield, has stated that the cost of the inspections would be passed along to show management, thus the exhibitors at those respective shows. 

Per the USDA’s average spend in 2015, if they were required to inspect at all horse shows in 2015 instead of just the 52 they attended, they would need an additional $5,000,000.  Currently, exhibitors are required to pay anywhere from $3-$30 per inspection however under the PAST Act or new rulemaking that includes this provision, exhibitors will be paying far greater inspection fees to cover the costs of USDA led inspections.

Rep. Rogers also asked APHIS to certify to him that USDA did not consult with or engage with any non-governmental entity in the drafting of the proposed rule.  Batta replied, “In response to your additional request, we can certify that no non-governmental entity had a role in drafting the proposed rule that USDA recently submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review.”

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