ENERGY & COMMERCE COMMITTEE LISTS “INVITED WITNESSES” – “BIG LICK” STRATEGY BECOMES APPARENT – THE BATTLE AGAINST SORING WILL BE DECIDED IN THE U. S. SENATE

WASHINGTON, DC – Late Friday the House Energy & Commerce Committee listed the invited witnesses
HR1518WITNESSES
for the 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, November 13, 2013, Manufacturing & Trade Subcommittee Hearing.

The “Sounders” get Four witnesses and the Lickers get Two.

Rather than play its Ace at this juncture, it appears the Lickers will mount a skirmishing defense at the HR 1518 Hearing, and then leave the heavy lifting to these guys over in the United State Senate:
THE “BIG LICK’S” GREAT HOPE – STEVE SMITH

BIG MONEY MAN - TENNESSEE POLITICAL INSIDER - RUNNING FOR TWHBEA DIRECTOR

BIG MONEY MAN – TENNESSEE POLITICAL INSIDER – RUNNING FOR TWHBEA DIRECTOR

SENATE MINORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL – (R-KY)

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY)

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY)

The Lickers put $100,000.00 on Uncle Mitch at a Reception in March 2013 at the Trainer’s Show, so now it’s about time for Mitch to deliver. Smith and McConnell enjoy a 25 year working relationship hearkening back to 1988 when a lawsuit turned off the lights at the Trainer’s Show at Decatur, Alabama. Steve Smith’s father, Reese L. Smith, got the Lickers organized and one of their first early allies was Senator Mitch McConnell from Kentucky. Long time Walking Horse business activist and “Big Lick” antagonist  Donna Benefield,  before she spent a short stint as a Consultant during the 2010 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration

DONNA BENEFIELD, HORSE PROTECTION  ACT EXPERT

DONNA BENEFIELD, HORSE PROTECTION ACT EXPERT

In 1988, Benefield was a major force in the lights being turned out in Decatur, when Judge Oliver Gasch temporarily removed the pads and chains, but then he was overruled on an appeal.

Steve Smith and Donna Benefield are natural adversaries, and in this next round the stakes will be extremely high.

Benefield is also influential in the State of Kentucky and U. S. Senator Mitch McConnell who is running for re-election in 2014 is well aware of her prowess which is detailed in 2008 http://tuesdayshorse.wordpress.com/2008/09/02/mcconnell-opposed-usda-inspectors-of-sored-horses-ky/

McConnell opposed USDA inspectors of sored horses (Ky)
Posted on Sep 2, 2008 by Vivian Grant Farrell
By JOHN CHEVES | Lexington Herald-Leader | Posted on Sun, Aug. 31, 2008 on Source: Kentucky.com | jcheves@herald-leader.com

“Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pressured the U.S. Department of Agriculture for years to back off its enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, even threatening to cut the agency’s funding, according to documents obtained by the Herald-Leader.

McConnell has suPported the Tennessee Walking Horse industry in its battle against USDA inspectors who look for evidence of soring, the illegal practice of deliberately injuring a horse’s front feet to get it to step higher in an exaggerated style known as “the Big Lick.”

McConnell backed the industry’s demand for its own inspectors “” paid by the industry, drawn from the ranks of horse owners and trainers “” to have a greater role in soring inspections, rather than the independent USDA veterinarians who uncover and report soring more frequently.

At the same time, the industry gave McConnell tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations and hired his Senate chief of staff, Niels Holch, as its Washington lobbyist and attorney.

“McConnell probably has caused more problems for horse protection single-handedly than any other person. He set the cause of horse protection back by years,” said Donna Benefield, administrative director of the Horse Protection Commission, a USDA-certified inspection organization in Gallatin, Tenn.

“He has supporters here (in Tennessee) “” financial supporters, if not people who can vote for him “” who are doing illegal things and don’t want to get caught,” Benefield said. “It’s very important to them that the law be loosely enforced. Sen. McConnell has been their champion in that.”

McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, who stands for re-election Nov. 4, declined to be interviewed for this story or answer the written questions that his office requested.

In a prepared statement, McConnell spokesman Robert Steurer said:

“Over the years, Sen. McConnell has been pleased to work with Sen. Wendell Ford and other members of the Kentucky delegation and Senate on behalf of this important industry. In 1998, Sen. McConnell joined Sen. Ford and several others in sending a letter to the USDA to express their support to improving enforcement and correcting the regulatory problems as to how the walking horse industry is inspected.”

Holch, the McConnell aide turned lobbyist, declined to comment.

David Pruett, president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association, and a McConnell campaign donor, said he recognized McConnell as a friend of the industry. But Pruett said he’s never personally met McConnell and is not familiar with the senator’s specific actions regarding the Horse Protection Act.

USDA spokeswoman Jessica Milteer said the agency would not publicly discuss McConnell’s activities.

“From the USDA’s perspective, we are enforcing the Horse Protection Act to the best of our ability,” Milteer said. “That’s really all that we can say.”

Congress hobbles USDA

In a series of letters to the agriculture secretary and in legislation, McConnell has told the USDA to withdraw its inspectors from more Tennessee Walking Horse events and let the industry conduct more of its own soring examinations.

USDA inspectors are so unpopular with horse owners and trainers, who fear soring citations and subsequent suspensions and fines, that participants sometimes flee events if the USDA is reported to be there. When USDA inspectors came to a July show in Owingsville, hundreds of competitors left rather than let their horses be examined.

Industry self-policing “” the system urged by McConnell “” does not uncover soring as effectively. According to studies, USDA inspectors are far more likely to discover and punish soring than industry inspectors.

In 2007, the violation rate at Tennessee Walking Horse shows was 15 times higher on average when the USDA was present, according to an analysis released this month by Friends of Sound Horses, an anti-soring advocacy organization.

The largest group of horse veterinarians “” the Lexington-based American Association of Equine Practitioners “” said this month that the industry’s self-inspection program “should be abolished, since the acknowledged conflicts of interest which involve many of them cannot be reasonably resolved.”

It’s an obvious conflict to give inspection authority to industry participants who show horses themselves, said Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, a former USDA administrator who oversaw the agency’s Horse Protection Program. Some industry inspection groups are led and staffed by people who were cited for soring their own horses.

“You have lay inspectors basically checking out the horses of their friends and neighbors,” said DeHaven, executive vice president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

But the industry is allowed to monitor itself most of the time because Congress limits funding for the USDA’s Horse Protection Program to $500,000 a year and sometimes provides even less. As a result, USDA veterinarians inspect fewer than 10 percent of Tennessee Walking Horse shows.

When the USDA has tried to give its inspectors a stronger oversight role, the industry has pushed back “” with McConnell’s help.

In a curt 1998 letter to the USDA, McConnell said the industry was upset about government inspectors “” the industry canceled an important horse show, he said “” and he warned the agency that he would cut its horse-protection budget for the next year if it didn’t give primary authority for soring inspections to the industry.

McConnell sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which decides federal spending. A dozen other senators “” all but one of them Republican “” signed that letter behind McConnell.

McConnell’s voice heard

McConnell kept the pressure on the USDA as it battled the Tennessee Walking Horse industry over soring. He dropped language into the 1999 agriculture spending bill instructing the USDA to resolve its “conflicts” with the industry over inspections. More letters to the agriculture secretary followed in the next few years.

“With more than 800 walking horse shows held in the United States each year, the Department does not have the resources to attend all,” McConnell reminded the USDA in a 2000 letter. “The limited resources (of the USDA) will not allow government veterinarians to attend more than 6 percent of these shows.”

Said DeHaven, the former USDA administrator: “Sen. McConnell’s letters came from an organized contingent within the industry that wanted the appearance of regulation without true regulation.”

“The fact is that over 30 years after passage of the law (against soring), we still have sored horses. We aren’t where we need to be,” DeHaven said.

While McConnell championed the industry from Capitol Hill, his former chief of staff, Niels Holch, lobbied the USDA and Congress to promote an interpretation of the Horse Protection Act that was more favorable for his employers at the National Horse Show Commission and the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association.

They made an effective pair, said Robin Lohnes, executive director of the American Horse Protection Association.

“The senator and Niels were advocating a partnership between the USDA and industry on enforcement, but with the industry serving as the senior partner and not the junior partner,” Lohnes said.

McConnell is a powerful senator, so when he expressed displeasure, word spread through the federal bureaucracy, former USDA officials said.

“We’d hear the name ‘Mitch McConnell,’ that he was one of the ones exerting pressure on us. Like, ‘If you don’t back off, we’re gonna cut your funding,'” said Dr. Tom James, a longtime USDA veterinarian and horse inspector based in Tennessee, now retired.

This chilled the agency’s desire to enforce the law, James said.

“When the USDA’s appropriations are threatened, it basically sends the message that you better back off and give industry what it wants,” James said.”

But I digress.

The “Big Licker” Two invited Witnesses are:

Dr. John Bennett – PSHA – Performance Show Horse Association

JOHN BENNETT,  DVM

JOHN BENNETT, DVM

Bennett testified on behalf of Larry Joe Wheelon in the August Preliminary Hearing in Maryville, Tennessee, and said he couldn’t determine if this was a sore horse

"BUCKET STANCE" PHOTO - EXHIBIT #3 INTRODUCED AT WHEELON PRELIMINARY HEARING ON AUG. 13, 2013

“BUCKET STANCE” PHOTO – EXHIBIT #3 INTRODUCED AT WHEELON PRELIMINARY HEARING ON AUG. 13, 2013

or not without doing a number of tests. He said what you see could be caused my a “misadjusted tail brace” or colic. Dr. Rachel Cezar with the USDA rebutted Bennett’s testimony and testified that the horse in the picture was “Sore” which successfully rebutted Bennett’s testimony and the Hearing continued until the Blount County Assistant District Attorney General Ellen Berez lost track of a witness, and the Hearing was dismissed on a technicality. The evidence of Wheelon’s activity is expected to be presented to a Blount County Grand Jury in December.

The other Licker invited Witness is Tennessee Agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson
JULIUSJOHNSONHEADSHOT
who is a Gov. Bill Haslam appointee.

Before being appointed Commission of Agriculture, Johnson worked for the Farm Bureau and is pretty much a political hack. He is expected to offer up at the Hearing some Big Licker propaganda about the economic impact of the Tennessee Walking Horse business in Tennessee. It is not clear if he will adopt PSHA Spokesperson Jeffrey Howard’s $3 BILLION DOLLAR figure or not.

Here is what Johnson has had to say previously and some information about him.

JULIUSJOHNSONSTATEMENT
JULIUSJOHNSONBIO

Also, here is Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam who in May 2013 vetoed the “AG GAG” Bill only after public outrage over a Bill which would suppress persons able to discover and make public animal abuse including news reporters. The AG GAG bill was backed by the Tennessee Farm Bureau who was Julius Johnson’s employer before being appointed Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture.
HASLAMVETOESAGGAG

So the showdown looms next Wednesday, but be forewarned the real high noon at OK corral is going to be over in the United States Senate once HR 1518 passes the U. S. House of Representatives.

BGBHEADSHOT01