United States Congressmen Scott DesJarlais, John Rose and David Kustoff from Tennessee as well as Representatives Hal Rogers and James Comer from Kentucky sent a letter on September 20, 2023 asking USDA-APHIS officials to extend the comment period on the new proposed rule issued in August. A similar letter seeking an extension was sent from the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty from Tennessee.

The letter points out the significant amount of damage the proposed rule would do effectively eliminating the entire performance division. The letter says, “A rule effecting such a sweeping change warrants more than a 60-day comment period for affected stakeholders to gather necessary data to address the proposed rule.”

The representatives also point out the timing of the announcement of the proposed rule which coincided with the two week world championship horse show, The Celebration. The industry lacks the resources to effectively pull the necessary data while also meeting all of the requirements of the USDA to comply with their own data requests during and after The Celebration, which is affiliated with the industry’s largest performance horse HIO, The SHOW HIO.

The proposed rule sought input from stakeholders in many areas. That input will be reliant on data from the past five years, data that will take time to accumulate and analyze as part of the comments on the proposed rule.  

The Congressmen ask APHIS Assistant Director Dr. Aaron Rhyner to extend the comment period by 60 days.  Currently the comment period will conclude October 21, 2023. The Congressmen’s letter seeking an extension follows other extension requests from The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, American Farm Bureau and three United States Senators.