AHC Forum to Focus on Emerging Diseases

The American Horse Council (AHC) has announced that the theme for this year's National Issues Forum is "Emerging Diseases: a Challenge to the Industry." This forum, which will be co-hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS), and the AHC will be held June 21 and 22 in Washington, DC, as part of the AHC's annual meeting. The annual meeting will run from June 20 to 23 and will also include a Trails Forum, the annual Congressional Ride-In, AHC committee meetings, and a Congressional Reception.

The emergence of a major equine disease can have dramatic consequences for the horse industry. Such outbreaks have occurred with some frequency over the last several years, most recently involving Contagious Equine Metritis in 2008 and Equine Piroplasmosis in 2009. These outbreaks have affected the interstate and international movement of horses, which is critical to the horse industry. When barriers to movement are raised by states and foreign countries concerned about the spread of infectious diseases, this affects sales, breeding, racing, competitions, and recreation.

These outbreaks have caused USDA-APHIS and state authorities to spend a great deal of money and resources to identify the diseases, trace the horses potentially affected, and contain the outbreak.

"The highlight of this year's forum will be a USDA-AHC hosted workshop that will provide an opportunity for the horse industry, key federal and state authorities, and others to discuss how each sector can ensure the health of our horses and the commercial health of the industry in the face of emerging and re-emerging diseases," said AHC president Jay Hickey. "We appreciate USDA-APHIS taking the initiative on this meeting."

Major national organizations will be invited to meet on the afternoon of June 21 with USDA-APHIS representatives and state authorities to discuss a coordinated approach to the handling of serious infectious equine diseases. The goal is to allow each to share their perspectives and identify priority issues related to the control of diseases.

On the morning of June 22nd there will be an open session that will include presentations by USDA-APHIS regarding their response to different types of equine infectious diseases and a summary of the issues identified the previous day. In conjunction with the AHC annual meeting, the AHC will also hold its first annual Recreation Forum. The goal of the recreation forum will be to highlight issues important to the recreational riding community. It will feature panels on building relationships with land mangers and working with other recreational users. The forum will also include presentations by national equestrian organizations on a range of recreational topics. A full agenda will be released in the coming weeks. The AHC encourages all interested recreational organizations and riders to attend. The cost for individuals interested in attending the recreation forum only will be $25.

The annual Congressional Ride-In will also occur during the AHC's annual meeting. The Ride-In allows members of the horse community to meet with their federal officials to discuss important issues affecting them. All members of the horse community are encouraged to participate.

Anyone wishing to participate in the Ride-In should contact AHC Legislative Director Ben Pendergrass at bpendergrass@horsecouncil.org or 202-296-4031. More information on these Forums and the entire AHC annual meeting can be found on the AHP's Web site.

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