As the 2020 election approaches, the horse industry and its affiliated Political Action Committees (PAC) continue to vet congressional candidates for campaign contributions based largely on the degree of their support for the industry’s priorities. As the umbrella group of the equine sector which advocates on consensus legislation, AHC has a history of working with and identifying lawmakers who champion issues that unite the diverse industry. While the federal legislative process in Washington gives way to full-swing campaigning, AHC has analyzed 24 key bills supported by the industry and identified their champions during the 116th Congress. From this broad pool of federal legislators, AHC compiled a bipartisan list of ten lawmakers who co-sponsored multiple bills that benefit the $122 billion sector. Examples of issue areas where the “top ten” have built a track record of leadership and support include animal welfare, Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies (EAAT), guest worker visa flexibility, tax, public trails access, and electronic logging device (ELD) flexibility.
The priority bills covering the industry’s consensus issues also reflect important victories such as enactment of the “Great American Outdoors Act” and robust funding of EAAT programs, just to name two examples. Using the legislative record as a metric to pinpoint incumbent candidates who have a history of moving the industry’s priorities forward, AHC applied other measures. These include membership on key committees, such as appropriations and agriculture, to further refine the list of champions. Not surprisingly, AHC has identified high-profile industry champions such as Reps. Barr (R-KY) and Tonko (D-NY) as incumbents that horse industry PACs should support. That said, the vetting process also revealed many candidates who have not necessarily topped the list of support among industry PACs. Below is a list of ten congressional incumbents, four senators and six representatives, whom industry groups should consider supporting with a campaign contribution during the current election season. Their success in November will bode well for the industry in 2021 and beyond:
- Andy Barr (R-KY) – Among his many contributions to the horse industry, Congressman Barr has become the face of federal EAAT programs. His equine portfolio is diverse, ranging from service as Congressional Horse Caucus co-chair, to taking the lead on tax legislation that grows the industry’s contributions to the U.S. economy.
- Susan Collins (R-ME) – This New England centrist is not only a “deciding vote” for big ticket legislation such as tax, but she is also a reliable champion on a variety of horse industry priorities. These include H2B guest worker flexibility, ELD flexibility and trails legislation. Sen. Collins also maintains a long-standing “open door” policy with “Down East” horse enthusiasts, recognizing that many of the issues benefitting the outdoor industry also benefit the equine sector.
- Steve Daines (R-MT) – As a western lawmaker who champions most of the horse industry’s “outdoors” and trail priorities, Sen. Daines’ support for the industry extends to ELD flexibility and the PAST Act. The senator’s well-rounded portfolio of support for legislation favored by the equine sector makes him a natural partner.
- Cory Gardner (R-CO) – Mr. Gardner was the chief sponsor of the landmark “Great American Outdoors Act.” To his credit, this Colorado senator lobbied Leader McConnell to secure scarce floor time for a landmark trails and conservation bill during a time when pandemic-relief legislation monopolized lawmakers’ time. Mr. Gardner faces a tough election this fall and deserves support.
- Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) – As chairman of the House Natural Resources (HNR) Committee, this western lawmaker serves as a gatekeeper for most of the industry’s trails and recreation priorities. Chairman Grijalva also has a track record of promoting outdoor activities, including sponsorship of Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) legislation and support for the “Great American Outdoors Act.”
- Collin Peterson (D-MN) – As Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and Congressional Horse Caucus member, Mr. Peterson has proven to be a reliable ally on key farm bill issues. The horse industry hopes to continue a productive relationship with Chairman Peterson, who faces a tough re-election in November.
- Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) – A longtime member of the Congressional Horse Caucus, Mr. Ruppersberger serves on the appropriations committee and consistently takes the lead on H-2B guest worker visa flexibility.
- Glenn Thompson (R-PA) – The 2019 winner of the Rolapp Award underscores GT’s strong track record of support for the horse industry. His portfolio of recent causes taken up on behalf of the sector includes robust funding of livestock programs and favorable statutory definitions in the farm bill. The horse industry can always count on this effective advocate on the House Agriculture Committee.
- Paul Tonko (D-NY) – As a long-time co-chair of the Congressional Horse Caucus, Mr. Tonko keeps an open-door policy to members of the horse sector. The congressman’s regular participation in equine events makes him recognizable to large segments of the industry.
- Mark Warner (D-VA) – This Virginia lawmaker and ex-governor has not only led efforts for the PAST Act in the Senate, but he has also supported important trails initiatives and veterans’ legislation that promotes EAAT.
The AHC promotes and protects all horse breeds, disciplines and interests by communicating with Congress, federal agencies, the media and the industry itself every day.