Congress has reached a tentative agreement on a bill to fund the federal government through September 30.

Importantly, the bill contains limited H-2B cap relief and other H-2B provisions beneficial to program users, including the horse industry.

Horse industry members use the H-2B program when they cannot find American workers to fill semi-skilled jobs at racetracks, horse shows, fairs, and in similar non-agricultural activities.

The cap for H-2B visas for the first half of the fiscal year was reached on January 10. For many employers that means no H-2B workers will be available if they are needed in 2017. This could cause many horse employers to struggle to find enough workers and force many to reduce their operations.

The bill provides the Secretary of Homeland Security with the authority to raise the H-2B cap when he determines that there is an economic need. However, it limits the total number of H-2B workers that can enter the United States during fiscal 2017 to 129,547, up from the current cap of 66,000. Even if the bill passes, however, it will still be up to the Homeland Security Secretary and the administration to use this authority.

The American Horse Council has been urging Congress to provide immediate H-2B cap relief and supports the inclusion of this provision in the spending deal. Congress is expected to pass the bill before the end of the week, but until that happens changes to the bill are still possible.