Equine Research Funding

Keeping in stride with the longstanding commitment for the improvement and protection of the nation's equine health, the American Horse Council is educating Congress on the importance of increased funding for agriculture research, specifically for horses and other animal research.

In recent years, global trade agreements, such as NAFTA and GATT, have singled out the animal health status of nations as the determining factor for facilitating trade of animals or animal products internationally. Regulatory controls of animals and animal products are based on animal health science in order to determine the potential risk of importing animal disease with trade.

All aspects of the U.S. horse industry include the international movement of horses, whether for breeding, racing, showing, or exhibition. International equine events, such as the Breeders' Cup Championship, which alone generates $30 to $60 million a year to the U.S. economy, are an important part of the economic contribution made by the horse industry.

Consequently, occurrences of diseases can have a significant economic impact on the movement of animals, including horses. For example, the 1995 Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) outbreak dramatically affected the interstate and international movement of equine. States and foreign nations feared losing important international markets. The equine industry and other animal industries, such as the dairy and beef markets, were seriously affected by the restrictions, particularly within the affected states.

Although the U.S. has seen outbreaks of VSV in the past, the science needed to answer basic questions, such as what vectors are responsible for transmission of the disease and how transmission occurs, has not been conducted. Research agencies, such as the Agriculture Research Service (ARS) of USDA, are under increasing demand for research on numerous animal health issues, including VSV. In addition, more pressure is being added as USDA is being asked to facilitate World Trade Organization agreements by scientifically justifying its positions on numerous animal health matters.

Unfortunately, the amount of federal money made available for agriculture research, particularly animal health research, continues to be cut by Congress and the resources needed to complete the necessary science are being siphoned away. An example is the 1997 Research Title of the Farm Bill recently passed by Congress. In this legislation, a small budget increase was given for agriculture research but it all was dedicated to planet science research. Animal science has not seen an increase in many years.

The AHC recognizes that federal agencies, such as the ARS, have a broad array of research projects that it is being asked to address. The equine industry is grateful for the benefits the agriculture industry as a whole, and the equine industry in particular, derive from the research conducted by these research agencies. The AHC is encouraging Congress to increase funding to agriculture research, particularly equine research.


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