success of these programs has been noted by horse owners through the
country. Although there isn’t a national regulatory body for the equine
community that oversees sales and as a result no access to corresponding
fees. That is why on the state level there are many horse industry
boards being created. In 1998 the North Carolina Horse Council for
example gained the right through a referendum to assess fees on sales of
horse feed a nickel per bag and two dollars per ton.
Although from state to state the horse industry varies greatly. The best
way to fund programs is to look locally for organizers and members. Part
of the funding for the horse board in Colorado comes from fees that are
collected at each brand inspection which is an activity that the state
regulates. In the eastern United States branding isn’t as widespread.
Rather it relies on the Coggins test and checkoff dollars are earned on
this by the Virginia Horse Industry Board of VHIB at $1.50 each time.
The horses owners pocketbook doesn’t received a big dent by tacking on
this small fee to each Coggins sample and at the same time this fee can
help the board promote the importance of having the test done.
Performing a Coggins test helps suppress the incidents of EIA to the
point that only three cases were reported last year.
No matter how checkoff fees are collected these fees fund programs that
are of real value to all horse owners through education, marketing and
research which is usually granted on a competitive basis. One is example
is grants given to Virginia Tech by the VHIB for research on several
topics including equine nutrition.
The fact that Vitamin E enhances immunoglobulins in colostrum and as a
result passive immunity in foals was determined through vital funding
received by the checkoff system in Virginia. The Virginia horse industry
focuses their support because of their interest in equine welfare.
The first industry-wide study done in two decades was also paid through
VHIB sponsorship. An amazing one billion dollars is impacted on the
state economy as a result of Old Dominion horses. As a result many
legislators have been encouraged to enact horse-friendly laws.
North Carolina’s checkoff fees support a variety of adult, youth and 4-H
activities and seminars that are targeted to a broad range of horse
enthusiasts just like the Virginia system. Both state organizations have
seminars several times a year that cover stall and pasture management,
safety around horses and general health information. There is even an
ongoing need for education even for the long-time horse owners with the
newly emerging diseases such as the West Nile virus and equine
The Changing Checkoff System
Even those these checkoff programs can bring in large amounts of money
they are also becoming enticing targets. The USDA announced in late 2000
that its referendum results would be terminating the pork checkoff
program. An injunction to overturn the decision was filed within weeks
by a group that included independent producers, state associations and
the national Pork Producers Council. This potential defunct program was
then honored later in the month with a national Best of Class for the
success they had in promoting “the other white meat”.
Starting A Checkoff Program
The most important then to start with is to make sure you have the
ability to demonstrate the support of the overall horse industry within
your state. Legislators are not surprisingly in support to levy what
they consider to be a backdoor tax. A good example to follow is the
state of Virginia. The Coggins test was not only a method of assessment,
but it was also the criterion for voting on the referendum. Rather than
the general public who possibly don’t understand the value of promoting
the horse industry, everyone who paid for the Coggins the previous year
got a vote. You should also make sure that who benefits from the
assessment is made clear. This is important because these are literally
the people who are going to support the program. For enthusiasts of all
breeds and disciplines these programs can do a lot of good. Consider the
North Carolina program which administered over two hundred thousand its
first year. Everybody benefits from these types of programs. It is also
a good idea to keep in mind that you are not alone. Three state
organizations in Texas, Connecticut and Georgia have asked to begin the
process within the last month alone. As other states realize that more
aggressive promotion is needed for their horse industries there will
likely be other to follow soon.