Call to Order and Roll Call
The2nd meeting of the Subcommittee on Horse Farming of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture was held on Wednesday, November 14, 2012, at 10:00 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Susan Westrom, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Damon Thayer, Co-Chair; Representative Susan Westrom, Co-Chair; Senators David Givens, Dennis Parrett, and Robin L. Webb; Representatives Royce W. Adams, Tom McKee, Michael Meredith, Brad Montell, David Osborne, Ryan Quarles, and Tom Riner.
Guests: Ms. Ginny Grulke and Ms. Erin Woodall, Kentucky Horse Council; Mr. Ben Shaffar, Kentucky Department of Agriculture; Mr. Ron Thomas, Executive Director and Mr. Marty Irby, President, Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association; and Ms. Linda Starnes, Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association – Kentucky affiliation.
The October 10, 2012, minutes were approved, without objection, by voice vote, upon motion made by Senator Thayer and second by Senator Parrett.
Kentucky Horse Council
The subcommittee first heard from Ms. Ginny Grulke, Executive Director of the Kentucky Horse Council (KHC), Mr. Ben Shaffar, with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Kentucky Proud Program, and from Ms. Erin Woodall, Chair of the Kentucky Breeds and Disciplines Council.
Ms. Grulke discussed a range of issues, including the general status of the horse industry in Kentucky, the comprehensive equine survey, the possible need to seek legislation related to the special license plate, and the Kentucky Proud designation for horse farms.
Ms. Grulke said that the horse industry is beginning to recover from the recession. Race horse sales are up, and there is more activity related to the breeding side of the industry. There appear to be fewer reports of abandoned or neglected horses, which was a problem during the height of the recession.
Ms. Grulke discussed the KHC-initiated equine survey. The University of Kentucky Equine Initiative is coordinating the survey in conjunction with the University of Louisville’s Equine Business Program and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Of the 15,000 names of horse owners identified initially, about 10,000 responded to the survey. In the months ahead, NASS will be generating data collected, there will be some follow-ups in low response areas, and consumer data (such as horse show and race track attendee spending) will be collected.
Responding to Senator Webb, Ms. Grulke indicated the compliance rate for the survey was good, although owners in some counties did not respond. Senator Webb mentioned that some people in her area may have been reticent to respond.
Ms. Grulke described to Representative Adams how KHC has gone about addressing some misunderstandings about the survey information. Results from the survey can show the scope of the industry in the state and be used to justify the need for a sales tax exemption long sought for horse farms.
In response to Co-chair Thayer, Ms. Grulke described how the council operates. She said that 2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the organization.
Ms. Grulke mentioned the possible need for legislation allowing owners of registered farm trucks to buy the special Horse Council equine license plate, from which a portion of revenue supports the KHC.
Ms. Grulke introduced Ms. Shaffar and also took part in the Kentucky Proud discussion.
Mr. Shaffar testified about how horse farms can become designated as Kentucky Proud facilities. The program promotes Kentucky grown or processed agricultural products. Horse farms would need to meet Kentucky Proud standards, be eligible to receive grants from the Department of Agriculture, and be eligible to participate in a cost-share program.
Ms. Grulke and Mr. Shaffar explained to Senator Webb the Kentucky Proud standards for horse farms. Ms. Grulke indicated that a horse born in Kentucky can be tied to the program.
Responding to Senator Thayer, Ms. Grulke and Mr. Shaffar said the designation will give horses brand recognition, plus the financial incentives would be available. Ms. Grulke noted that Breeders’ Incentive Fund Program awards generally go to those involved in horse racing or showing, but the Kentucky Proud designation would provide a boost to those not involved in racing or showing, such as exhibitors at county fairs.
Senator Thayer advised them to “proceed with caution” and urged cooperation between Kentucky Proud for horses and the Breeders’ Incentive Fund Program.
In remarks to the witnesses, Senator Webb said Kentucky Proud for horses is a form of agricultural diversification.
Prior to Ms. Woodall’s remarks, Senator Thayer mentioned the problem in Kentucky with horse trail riders getting access to trails on public lands.
Ms. Woodall discussed the concept of the Kentucky Breeds and Disciplines Council. The idea behind the council is to provide a venue to share ideas by those involved in all equine disciplines and to offer suggestions to the KHC.
Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association
Mr. Ron Thomas, Executive Director of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association (TWHBEA), Mr. Marty Irby, TWHBEA president (both residents of Tennessee), and Ms. Linda Starnes, Edmondson County, a Tennessee Walking Horse owner and championship show participant, testified about the association.
Senator Webb, a Tennessee Walking Horse rider, introduced the speakers. She mentioned that Representative Gregory, who was unable to attend the meeting, shows Tennessee Walking Horses.
Mr. Irby testified about the scope of the breed and the history of the TWHBEA. The breed registry was formed in 1935 and currently has 10,000 members in the U.S. and worldwide.
Mr. Irby told the subcommittee that Kentucky important to the association. For example, Kentucky ranks second to Tennessee in the number of TWHBEA members. There are almost 35,000 registered Tennessee Walking Horses in Kentucky. In 2011, almost 1,300 mares were bred in Kentucky and almost 550 foals born. Six Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horses were bred in Kentucky and two World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horses were owned in the state in 2011. The horse is a versatile breed and is shown and is ridden for pleasure.
Mr. Thomas talked about the history of the breed as a utility horse suited for a recreational mount due to its smooth, easy ride, and gentle disposition. The breed was founded in middle Tennessee. The first Tennessee Walking Horse show occurred in Shelbyville, Tennessee, which is home of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.
He addressed the controversy surrounding some who abuse the horses in training and showing. Mr. Thomas said his organization has worked hard to rectify the problem and separate itself from those who do not act appropriately.
Responding to Senator Webb, Mr. Thomas described the classic class as a competition class for older horses, 15 or older.
Senator Web talked about the wide range in ages of riders. She described one 93-year-old show participant. Mr. Irby indicated he started riding at age 3.
Ms. Starnes talked about her involvement with the breed and expressed her appreciation for the Kentucky Breeders’ Incentive Fund Program. Mr. Irby also expressed his appreciation for the program.
The meeting adjourned at about 11:20 a.m.