‘History created’ with signing of USVI/VI MoU – Dr. Pickering
The MoU covers a period of five years and was signed by representatives of the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) and the Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour with a view to enhancing the relationship between the USVI and VI, while also establishing procedures that would allow the entry of horses from either territory for the purpose of racing.
Apart from the Deputy Premier, speakers at the press conference included Mr. Bevin Braithwaite, Chief Agricultural Officer in the Department of Agriculture and Mr. Fred V. Soltero, DVM, Area Veterinarian-in-Charge
Puerto Rico & U.S. Virgin Islands, USDA/APHIS.
The Deputy Premier said the sport has always brought generations of family and friends together for competition, enjoyment and camaraderie while citing the recently hosted first leg of the VI Triple Crown horse races as evidence of this.
Dr. Pickering further noted that there was a common concern shared between the two Territories for the health status of horses used for racing and added that the MoU will assist each Territory in meeting its obligations to this end.
Meanwhile, Chief Agricultural Officer (CAO) Mr Braithwaite expressed that the signing of the MoU was not just a mere formality but rather signified the kind of relationship that has been fostered over the decades between the USVI and VI, a relationship, he said dated back as early as the 16th century.
He further disclosed that the signing of the MoU was specific to equines, i.e. horses, donkeys, mules and zebras. The CAO added, “We at the Department of Agriculture as well as the horse owners are stewards of this memorandum and as such we do not view this document lightly but will guard against every possible infraction to ensure that this relationship matures to involve pre-arranged movement of other species in the near future.”
It was noted that each Territory and its competent authority have specific responsibilities for ensuring compliance with the appropriate animal health requirements. Further, the document sets forth procedures of reciprocal cooperation for the temporary movement of equines between the territories for the purpose of racing.
Dr Pickering further disclosed that the signing of the MoU signals the extension of an agreement to share information with authorised personnel on both sides of the divide and includes all animal disease records, in addition to their respective registries, inventories and listings of horse racing organisations that fall under their purview.
According to the Deputy Premier, with the MoU, there is also an agreement to share evidence of serious instances of non-compliance of standards with policies as well as to consult and co-ordinate to the most practical extent on regulatory or policy proposals.
Mr. Soltero said the process took a very long time and now that it was “finally at the end of the road, we will start very new possibilities”; he further described the occasion as the “start of a very meaningful relationship”.
The process of reaching the agreement for the MoU reportedly took a period of six months to be completed, a period that the Minister described as being "too long".