2014 Budget Proposal would Nix Horsemeat Inspection Funding

Funding for USDA inspections at horse processing plants would be eliminated under a request contained in the total $3.8 trillion budget proposal revealed by President Barack Obama earlier this week.

Prior to 2005, USDA personnel carried out horsemeat food safety inspections at U.S. processing plants. In 2006, Congress voted to strip the USDA of funding for inspections at facilities that processed horsemeat for human consumption. Congressional funding bills contained amendments denying the USDA revenue for horse processing plant inspections until November 2011, when Congress passed an appropriations bill that did not contain language specifically forbidding the agency from using federal dollars to fund horsemeat inspections at processing plants.

No horse processing plants are currently operating in the United States, however processing operations have been proposed in several states, including New Mexico. There, the Valley Meat Co., LLC, in Roswell, is currently awaiting a USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) permit that would allow the placement of USDA personnel at the processing plant to carry out horsemeat inspections. In addition, according to published reports, operators of prospective plants in Colorado, Missouri, Tennessee, and Iowa have also applied for FSIS inspection permits.

Last year, U.S. Rep. Jim Moran introduced and the U.S. House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment that deprived the USDA of funds to inspect U.S. horse processing plants. Last month, Congress passed HR 933, the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013, which did not contain the Moran Amendment. President Obama subsequently signed the measure into law. On March 25, Moran submitted a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking him to include language prohibiting the use of taxpayer dollars for horse processing plant inspections in the in the Department of Agriculture’s 2014 budget proposal.

On April 10, President Obama unveiled the $3.8 trillion budget plan for 2014. Under the proposed budget, the USDA would receive a total of $145.8 billion in revenue; the budget also includes the USDA's request that Congress vote to prohibit the agency from using any of those federal funds to inspect U.S. horse processing plants.

Moran called the defunding request “a step in the right direction.

“This decision reflects the food safety concerns inherent to horsemeat and is consistent with the 80% of the American people who oppose this inhumane industry," Moran said in a written statement. “It is now up to Congress to do the right thing and vote to approve this language in the FY 2014 Agriculture Appropriations bill.”

In a written statement, Atty. Blair Dunn, who represents the owners of the Valley Meat Co., called the White House request discriminatory.

“We are disappointed that the White House and our USDA have turned a deaf ear to the voices of agriculture, Native Americans, and horse industry groups in favor of catering to anti-agriculture special interests,” Dunn's statement said. “By doing so the White House and USDA are trying to destroy another lawful small Hispanic business, and Valley Meat Company hopes that members of Congress will resist this discriminatory choice in favor of the actual best welfare of horses and jobs for our economy.”

The entire presidential 2014 budget plan now goes the nonpartisan congressional budget office (CBO) for review. CBO evaluations and recommendations will then be submitted to U.S. House and Senate appropriations committees.

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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