2016 U.S. Omnibus Bill Denies Horsemeat Inspections

A federal appropriations bill for fiscal 2016 includes a provision that forbids the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from using its funding to pay personnel for horsemeat inspections at horse processing plants in the United States. The so-called “Omnibus Bill” details funding for federal departments, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and subsequently the FDA. Defunding the USDA's horsemeat inspections prohibits the establishment of horse processing plants in the United States, because no federal horsemeat inspections can take place.

Prior to 2007, USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS) personnel carried out horsemeat inspections at U.S. horse processing plants. That same year, Congress voted to strip USDA of funds required to pay personnel conducting federal horsemeat inspections at the last two domestic equine processing plants operating in Illinois and Texas. The combination of legislation and local court rulings later closed both of those plants. 

Federal funding bills continued to include language denying the USDA of funding for horsemeat inspections until 2011, when Congress passed and the president signed a 2012 appropriations bill that failed to contain language specifically forbidding the USDA from using federal dollars to fund horse-slaughter-plant inspections. Shortly after that bill became law, horse processing plants were proposed in several states, but were never established. 

The horsemeat inspection funding denial returned in subsequent allocations bills, including the Omnibus Bill for fiscal 2016. U.S. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Kentucky) announced the bill on Dec. 16, 2015.

While previous bills contained an amendment defunding the horsemeat inspections, the new Omnibus Bill contains a provision drawn from the Senate's earlier appropriations bill. “It's not an amendment,” said Jennifer Hing, spokesperson for Rogers’ office. “It was a provision in the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill that was retained in the final Omnibus agreement.”

U.S. Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) said the bill responds to American's funding priorities. “This Omnibus Bill reflects many of the priorities of the Senate as expressed to us in the thousands of requests that we received,” Cochran said. 

The Omnibus Bill is now pending before the full House and Senate.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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