Kentucky horse breeding farms are now eligible to apply for federal relief from agriculture-related disasters.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear made the announcement Feb. 13. The governor had asked the USDA to consider changes that would allow the farms to be eligible, and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) recently updated its handbook accordingly.

Under the program, equine farms that produce breeding stock for commercial use as a part of their farming operation and claim the horse breeding stock for tax purposes with the Internal Revenue Service could be eligible for the USDA Emergency Conservation Program.

"The horse breeding industry is a vital segment of Kentucky’s agricultural economy, and it’s important that these farms have access to this program when natural disasters strike," Beshear said. "Our continued communications with USDA helped them to understand the unique composition and needs of farms in our state.

"The USDA has been receptive and compassionate in its consideration of our farm families, and I thank them and the administration for their thoughtful and substantive response to our concerns."

According to a release from the governor’s office, Kentucky has experienced 11 federally declared disasters–including flooding, ice storms, and tornadoes–since 2008. All but two of the state’s 120 counties have been included in at least one disaster, according to statistics.

The program provides emergency funding and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters and for implementing emergency water conservation measures in periods of severe drought. Funding for the program is appropriated by Congress, and the program is administered by state and county FSA committees.

"We appreciate USDA rethinking the eligibility of horse breeding farms for the Emergency Conservation Program and clarifying that they are indeed eligible," American Horse Council president Jay Hickey said. "This will benefit those horse farms and ranches hard hit by disasters. Gov. Beshear, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders (KTOB), and the American Horse Council deserve a lot of credit for working with the Department of Agriculture to finally get this resolved favorably for breeders."

"We are very appreciative of Gov. Beshear for his leadership and involvement in this effort," said David Switzer, executive director of the KTOB and Kentucky Thoroughbred Association.

There are about 600 commercial breeding farms for all breeds in Kentucky now eligible to apply for funding if needed, the KTOB said.