I’m writing this from Reno, Nev., as the American Farrier’s Association wraps up another educational convention. While visiting with the farriers here, I polled a few dozen of them about how concerned they are about the proposed Model Veterinary Practice Act changes by the American Veterinary Medical Association — primarily the removal of the farrier exemption. You can read about the impact of this here.
Opinions here are mixed on the subject. Some are uncertain, not knowing what the impact could be. Others are vehemently against the proposed changes. And a few astutely pointed out that there is nothing prohibiting any current state veterinary board to change their current status of veterinary exemptions. It seems more farriers are more concerned about the impact of the electronic logging device changes. This concern is due to the federal implications that will affect the entire horse industry.
Interestingly, outgoing AFA president Donnie Perkinson used his time at last night’s general membership meeting to warn his fellow members of the potential outside threat of the AVMA changes. Perkinson’s warning echoed his comments featured in an article by Jeff Cota in the upcoming March 2018 edition of American Farriers Journal. Perkinson also reminded the AFA members in attendance that working together with all farriers is crucial to combat outside threats to the trade.
This call for unity was an insightful use of Perkinson’s time. Farriers are represented by a few viable organizations with different agendas, and the remainder operate as independents. And none of these have legitimate lobbying power. Because of federal tax classifications, these different organizations are limited or prohibited from lobbying. And by lobbying efforts, I mean in simple terms, paying for political influence.
As far as lobbying efforts, a few farrier organizations “pay” for lobbying through their American Horse Council (AHC) memberships. Of course, that brings the assumption that the AHC prioritizes farrier interests among its diverse equine industry members.
Nonetheless, the AHC has to report its lobbying investment each year. According to Open Secrets, the AHC spent $70,000 directly on lobbying expenditures. How much influence does that buy? I’m not sure, but that $70,000 is split among what the AHC has deemed its core interests. As members, farrier organization are competing for AHC attention with groups like the New Jersey Horse Council and United States Polo Association. You can see the other members here. More specifically, some of the issues that the AHC influenced in 2017 through lobbying efforts were supporting an amendment of equine therapy and horse racing in gaming. Farriery doesn’t come up in any research on AHC lobbying efforts.
Compare that to the AVMA lobbying investments. We’ll start with the 2018 reported contributions to congressional members, which is at $160,500 so far. The AVMA should be commended for its bipartisanship, splitting its contributions to Republicans and Democrats 51% to 49%, respectively. In 2017, the AVMA spent $810,000 total on its lobbying expenditures. It should be noted that AVMA membership is not compulsory for U.S. vets.
By the way, there also is a veterinary medicine caucus in Congress. It reports dozens of legislators as its members.
I tend to agree with the AFA members who I spoke with who believe that the AVMA threats are pure speculation, and nothing now prohibits any state from adjusting its farrier exemption status with or without input form the AVMA. However, if you are concerned about the preservation of autonomy of your trade, you must realize that there is always a threat of oversight. And if that threat were to ever come from federal government legislation, you should realize that any influence of elected officials is not in your favor. Money talks, and it is the only source that politicians listen to. Right now, politicians won’t attend to farriers.