Horse industry to vote on referendum March 15

Published 6:38 pm Thursday, March 10, 2011

Horse owners as young as 9 have the opportunity Tuesday, March 15 to vote for or against the continuation of a $2 assessment fee on commercial horse feed.
The assessment fee began 12 years ago in an effort to boost funding for horse council activities.
Local North Carolina Horse Council representative Nancy Wilson said revenue collected from the fee bolsters the effectiveness of the horse industry.
“It’s a no-brainer to me. We have a stake in legislation in our state – we can provide grants, programs and more,” she said. “I want to see people benefit who own horses. I want to see horses benefit.”
If voters decide in favor of the referendum, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will continue to receive the assessment fee via manufacturers and/or distributors of horse feed. The money is then sent on to the N.C. Horse Council.
Wilson said the council uses the funds to support 4-H and other youth programs, REINS volunteer programs, trails advocacy, equine research, representation of horse interests in government, marketing programs, enforcement of horse laws and improved public awareness of diseases and other threats to horses’ well-being.
Wilson said the horse community sees a trickle-down effect in the form of grant money often provided to local facilities and programs.
She said with three local equestrian facilities – Harmon Field, FENCE and the Green Creek Equestrian Park – Polk County is sure to benefit.
“I just feel like anything we can do to keep people active here in the horse community we need to do so,” she said.
Tryon Riding and Hunt Club Executive Director Laura Weicker said the assessment promotes a greater awareness of the industry as a whole by funding marketing and educational pieces. She said she believes with a local representative now on the council more people will be aware of the available resources.
“Frankly, I think it’s one of those things that a lot of people in our area just weren’t aware of,” Weicker said. “Now their grant program is becoming more defined and I think locally we can really expect to see a lot of good come out of the assessment.”
Any North Carolina resident, 9 years or older, who has complete or partial ownership or lease of an equine is eligible to cast a vote in the referendum. Equines could include a horse, pony, mule, donkey or hinny, according to a release from the North Carolina Horse Council.
Voters must approve the continuation of the assessment every three years.
Voting this year will take place at the Cooperative Extension Office in Columbus from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information, contact agriculture extension agent Kendra Bissette at 828-894-8218.

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