Our Horse Owners Matter Big Time to Farm Bureau!

By Ana Kennedy Otto, Arizona Farm Bureau Government Relations Manager and Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau Communication Director: On a few occasions, we’ve had Arizona Farm Bureau members with horse property ask us why their business is “defined as agriculture property?” It’s a fair question and one that deserves clarification.

To clarify what might not always be obvious, we turn to the Arizona Department of Agriculture. Horses are livestock according to the Arizona Department of Agriculture’s definition of livestock. Although some horse owners regard their horses as “show ring snobs,” they are still livestock. The same goes for any high-priced, show-ring animal like beef, sheep, and goat. As a result, Arizona Farm Bureau’s own policies in one way or another impact their care and well-being even if they are not raised on or part of a traditional farm.

The Arizona Department of Agriculture defines horses as livestock even if most of what a business uses horses for is show animals.

“Our work, which protects the growers’ ability to farm ensures horse owners accessibility to local and affordable feed supplies,” explains Arizona Farm Bureau’s First Vice President Stefanie Smallhouse, partnered in a ranch with her husband, Andy, and a lifelong horse owner. “Of possibly even greater importance in our current environment is Arizona Farm Bureau’s ability to work to ensure that animal activists do not control/eliminate the use of animals for show/work and general use in agriculture.”

With regards to growers and their ability to produce feed supplies- we deal with water policy, air quality regulations, and crop protection tools that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) keeps trying to limit.

Sometimes Arizona Farm Bureau’s work has a direct impact on the equine industry. Back in 2010, we worked on an equine zoning issue which put this segment of our membership front and center. Equine may not always be at the forefront, but Arizona Farm Bureau puts them front-and-center on their issues when needed. This is the case with all our diverse groups in agriculture. Arizona Farm Bureau represents all agriculture, therefore, we’re always covering issues depending on what needs the organization’s critical attention.

Current Policy Areas that Relate to Equine

Arizona Farm Bureau’s policies are reviewed annually by our members. These policies, created and driven by our farmers and ranchers set the course for what Arizona Farm Bureau will work on. In nearly every instance, these policy issues have a significant impact on your business.

Here is an example of some of our current Arizona Farm Bureau policies that impact the equine industry.

Taxes

Agricultural Valuation for Small Farms: Viable agricultural production can be conducted on parcels of less than 10 acres. All lands in agricultural production should be assessed for agricultural valuation. Arizona Farm Bureau will work with state and county officials to change assessment practices to acknowledge parcels less than 10 acres that include commercial farms and commercial equine operations as agricultural properties.

Regulations

Animal Care: Proper care of livestock, poultry and fur-bearing animals is essential to the efficient and profitable production of food, fiber and ornamentals. No segment of society has more concern for the wellbeing of poultry and livestock in accordance with commonly accepted agricultural practices.

Recognition of Equine Industry: The Arizona Revised Statutes section governing the Animal Services Division of the Arizona Department of Agriculture includes horses, mules and burros in the definition of livestock. Therefore, the Arizona Department of Agriculture should recognize the equine industry as an agricultural commodity and include equine activities as normal agricultural activities.

Equine Rescue Registry: We support the Equine Rescue Registry established in the Arizona Department of Agriculture and 97 development of programs in relation to this registry. We urge improvements to the Department website to make this registry easily accessible and to add links to the individual registered horse rescues. We encourage all equine rescues to meet the requirements and register with the Arizona Department of Agriculture 501(c)(3) equine rescue registry.

Equine Massage and Dentistry: We encourage a change in Arizona state law to allow non-veterinarians who are trained as massage therapists or equine dentists to legally practice as certified massage therapists or certified equine dentists.

Equine Training for Peace Officers: We encourage all peace officers to attend the Arizona Horse Council’s Peace Officers’ Standards and Training (POST) certified law enforcement training program as part of their continuing education.

Air Pollution Controls: We are in favor of having normal agricultural practices exempt from air pollution controls; including, but not limited to, livestock facilities (including equine facilities), open controlled agricultural burning, and ditch burning and normal field operations. (exerpt)

Equine Facilities: Owners and/or operators of equine facilities should be encouraged to post signs informing users of the facility of the legal limits of liability. The signs should reference Arizona Revised Statutes 12-553, “Limited 118 liability of equine owners and owners of equine facilities.”

Law and Order

Equine Processing: Arizona Farm Bureau supports development of an equine processing facility in Arizona. We support a policy that allows equine slaughter facilities to be built in the United States to supply meat for consumption by zoo animals.

Equestrian Property Use and Regulations: Arizona Farm Bureau believes that all Arizona County Planning and Development Departments should recognize horses as livestock and exempt equestrian normal-use activities in rural areas from requiring permits. If the nature of a proposed commercial equine activity in rural zoned areas demands a special use permit, the owner’s property rights should be recognized and the owners should not be subject to continually changing requirements and unnecessary, exorbitant costs.

Transportation

Transportation of Equine: Transport of equine animals should not be regulated by federal law but rather as a states’ rights issue. We support the need and right to transport equine animals for any purpose, i.e. recreational activities, attending shows, aiding in the movement of cattle, processing, etc.

Our commitment to equine is as solid as our commitment to the diverse other groups represented by Arizona Farm Bureau. We encourage our members to be part of our process.

For more questions on this issue contact either Julie Murphree at 480.635.3607 or Ana Kennedy Otto at 480.635.3614.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the March 2016 issue of Arizona Agriculture

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