N.C. legislators propose commission to promote equestrian industry

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, April 16, 2009

Equestrian facilities, events and related businesses in North Carolina could soon get more attention and support from a new equestrian-focused commission.

State legislators are proposing the creation of an Equine Industry Commission dedicated to promoting and expanding the state&squo;s equine industry.

The 15-member commission would appoint a director to serve as a legislative liason to the commission and could employ staff.

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The commission&squo;s duties, as proposed in House Bill 756, include:

&ull; To develop plans for initiatives, incentives, tax credits, or appropirations that promote equine facilities, events and other equine industry entities.

&ull; To develop plans to attract new equine facilities, events and related entities.

&ull; To act as an advocacy group for legislative proposals or adminstrative action recommended by the commission.

Each year the commission would be required to submit a report with specific recommendations for retaining and expanding the equestrian industry in the state.

The commission also would review and evaluate data from an Equine Industry Study conducted by the Rural Economic Development Center to assess the value of the state&squo;s equine industry.

Some information from the study is used to support the bill proposing the industry commission (See box below).

Most of the 12 members of the state&squo;s Equine Industry Commission would be apppointed by the state&squo;s top elected officials: four each by the governor, the president Pro Tempore of the N.C. Senate and the Speaker of the N.C. House. The Chairman of the N.C. Horse Council, The Commissioner of Agriculture and the President of the N.C. Farm Bureau Federation also would have authority to appoint a member.

The bill proposing the commission calls for $250,000 in state funding in fiscal year 2009-2010, beginning July 1, and another $250,000 in fiscal year 2010-2011 to fund the commission&squo;s work and the implementation of the bill.

The bill is scheduled to go to the agriculture committee in the House, followed by the finance committee and appropriations.

The bill was proposed by representatives Cole, Braxton, Crawford, Dickson, Hill, Lucas, McLawhorn, Rapp, Underhill, R. Warren and Wray on March 25.

If adopted, the act would become effective July 1, 2009.

Equine industry officials in Polk County have in the past emphasized the importance of the industry in the state and local economy and pushed for more resources to promote it.

Polk County Economic Development Director Kipp McIntyre, has said the equine industry is an integral part of Polk&squo;s economy and has great potential to bring additional business. The county has worked on plans to promote the local equine industry as part of an overall economic development plan. Polk County also hosted in 2007 the first National Economic Equine Summit at FENCE.Equine industry value to N.C. economy

The following is some of the data reported in a study by the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, Inc. on the economic impact of the equine industry in North Carolina.

&ull; 306,889 head of equine in the state and 53,095 hourseholds with equine

&ull; 2,123,800 acres of land dedicated to equine operations

&ull; 19,138 full- and part-time jobs in the state

&ull; $1.4 billion total spending on goods and serves by equine owners; 89.7 percent occuring within the state

&ull; $66.6 million spending by horse show exhibitors who are not residents of North Carolina at the three state-operated horse show facilities; 27 percent of the exhibitors at the three facilities are nonresidents of the state.

&ull; $196 million in federal, state and local tax revenue

&ull; Estimated $2.2 billion total value of the equine industry in N.C.; $1.9 billion total additional economic impact of the industry &bsp;