Washington, D.C., October 8 — The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) today confirmed that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the 2001 Farm Bill, which contains two separate provisions for federal economic relief for horse owners and breeders who have suffered substantial losses among their breeding stock. The Farm Bill passed the House on Friday afternoon and now goes to the Senate.
Under the first provision, emergency relief funds would be available to horsemen who have sustained losses attributable to Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome (MRLS), which has reduced the 2002 Thoroughbred foal crop by as much as 20 percent. Some estimates place the economic impact of MRLS at $50 million for the foal crop of 2001 and $350 million for that of 2002.
Under a second, more broadly worded provision in the Farm Bill, horse owners and breeders would be eligible for emergency loans under the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act, just like other producers of agricultural crops or livestock affected by an emergency or disaster.
“That two provisions designed to aid horse breeders should be included in this Farm Bill indicates how far the horse racing and breeding industry has come in educating members of Congress about our $34 billion agribusiness,” said Greg Avioli, NTRA deputy commissioner and COO. “We are particularly grateful to the American Quarter Horse Association for its help in this important area over the past two years, and to those who have funded our legislative and lobbying programs by participating in the NTRA’s voluntary one-quarter-percent auction program.”
The NTRA has allocated $980,000 to legislative programs for 2001 and will nearly double that figure in 2002.
Representatives Ernie Fletcher (R-KY) and Ken Lucas (D-KY) included the proviso for breeders affected by MRLS, with support from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest (R-TX). Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN), joined by Fletcher, sponsored the first-ever provision to have horses treated the same as other types of livestock under the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act. The inclusion of horses in the definition of livestock “is a recognition that horses are an important part of American agriculture,” said Jay Hickey, president of the American Horse Council.
Under the bill’s provisions, the Secretary of Agriculture would make loans available to eligible horse farmers who have suffered at least a 30-percent loss in healthy foals owned or boarded by the farmer. Loans, which cannot exceed $500,000, carry a term of up to 15 years at an interest rate set by the Secretary of Agriculture. Farmers also must be unable to obtain sufficient credit elsewhere.
The NTRA is a broad-based coalition of horseracing interests, including the American Quarter Horse Association, charged with increasing popularity of horseracing and improving economic conditions for industry participants. The NTRA and Breeders’ Cup Limited also conduct the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, Thoroughbred racing’s year-end Championships consisting of eight races and $13 million in purses and awards, and the Breeders’ Cup National Stakes Program, both of which are funded by the industry’s owners and breeders.