- Report Published -
|Final Report on the Study of Virginia's Equine Industry|
|Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services|
|SJR 57 (Regular Session, 2004)|
|Senate Joint Resolution 57 passed by the 2004 Virginia General Assembly calls for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to study ways to enhance the economic development of Virginia's equine industry. The Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services was directed to create a task force to assist the Department in defining the scope of the study, conducting the study, and formulating findings and recommendations. The Department was also directed to examine incentives to generate growth in the industry and evaluate obstacles that may hinder the economic development of the industry.|
The Department was further directed to submit an interim report on the progress of the study to the Governor and the 2005 Session of the General Assembly. The Department submitted an Interim Report to the Governor and to the 2005 General Assembly. Now this final report of its findings and recommendations is being submitted to the Governor and the General Assembly by November 30, 2005.
The purpose of this final report is to communicate the issues identified by the Equine Study Task Force and to briefly explain their importance to the economic development of the equine industry in Virginia.
To date, the Equine Study Task Force has met seven times, has reviewed the nine areas referenced in SJ 57, and has identified key issues that should be further examined and addressed by recommendations.
This final report provides 16 recommendations to the 2006 General Assembly. The recommendations are as follows:
1. The Task Force recommended in its interim report that the General Assembly support legislation to permit the establishment of an equine feed check off through a referendum that allows horse owners to vote on this self-assessment. This has since been approved by the General Assembly and the referendum will be conducted in 2005-2006.
2. The Task Force recommends that the funding of the .05% allocation of pari-mutuel monies for the Virginia Equine Center Foundation, .05% for the Virginia Horse Industry Board, and .15% to the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine be restored and not be subject to a total allocation cap.
3. In consideration of the major contributions of the Virginia Horse Center to the state's equine industry and to the state's economic growth, and due to the fact that the Center faces significant competition from state-supported horse centers in surrounding states, the Equine Study Task Force is recommending on-going funding for the Virginia Horse Center be continued at $890,000 per fiscal year for the original debt service.
4. Because of the economic stimulus it creates and the increased marketing opportunities the program generates for small horse breeders, representing non-racing breeds, the Task Force recommends that the funding for the Virginia Horse Breeder Incentive Program be restored by the General Assembly to the levels at the inception of the program--$125,000 in general funds per fiscal year.
5. To accomplish some of the major efforts put forth in this report, the Task Force further recommends that the $900,000 currently being generated by the horseracing industry be re-invested in the industry-rather than being forwarded to the General Fund as is the current practice. These monies could be used for education and promotion of the Virginia equine industry as the purpose of the monies is "to promote, sustain and grow the native industry."
6. The Task Force recommends removing from Chapter 29, Section 59.1-391, of the Code of Virginia, "Local referendum required." This would allow the Virginia Racing Commission and local jurisdictions to control the approval of new sites.
7. The Task Force stresses promotion and education as the best and most efficient means to further develop horse trails in Virginia. Cross promotion to the general public will need to be coordinated with Virginia Tourism as well.
8. The Task Force recommends:
• Land use assessment be made available uniformly throughout the Commonwealth.
• Additional funding be provided for purchase of development rights programs.
• Tax credits for the development value of conservation easements be maintained.
• Virginia Horse Industry Board be requested to solicit proposals for developing a comprehensive guide for local governments to utilize in enacting land preservation tools as well as local ordinances that would facilitate the friendly development of the equine industry.
• Virginia Horse Industry Board be requested to solicit proposals for developing a comprehensive guide for equine owners regarding land preservation options as well as a list of qualified accountants and legal advisors to facilitate their participation in certain programs such as donation of a conservation easement.
• Virginia's Right to Farm Act be maintained.
• Virginia Cooperative Extension Agents become an integral part of educating horse owners and local governments about the benefits of land preservation with regards to the equine industry.
9. The Task Force recommends that horse associations encourage their members to work in their counties to keep local leaders informed about the contributions of the industry to protecting green space, including providing these leaders with industry economic reports. The Task Force also recommends that the industry identify ways to work with the Virginia Association of Counties and the Virginia Municipal League to accomplish this.
10. The Task Force recognizes the need for additional study regarding promotion of all segments of the industry. The Task Force supports future surveys of the equine industry by the Virginia Agricultural Statistics Service.
11. The Task Force supports increased resources for Virginia Cooperative Extension equine activities and programs for the Virginia horse industry -including more research positions and funding for staff and programs-to strengthen the connection and communication with the Virginia horse industry. More money is needed for Cooperative Extension to provide educational services to the horse industry and to address the growing needs of Virginia's equine industry.
Resources are not keeping pace with the growth of the horse industry in the state. A tenure track faculty position which could support adult extension education and conduct needed research would greatly benefit the equine industry. Current state extension efforts are focused primarily on youth. This additional position would allow development of a similar high quality program focused on the adult horse owner.
12. The Task Force encourages Cooperative Extension to develop educational efforts to reach the horse industry. Expanded funding and staffing would promote this interaction with the horse industry community. Expanded funding and staffing would allow Cooperative Extension to increase the number of area equine agents across the state. This move would provide the equine community with more local expertise and a conduit to the other specialists on the main campus. Technical support of the equine 4-H program on the Blacksburg campus would allow current educational programs to be expanded and strengthened, better serving the state's youth community. In addition, the Task Force supports the growing 4-H Horse Program and recommends fully staffing the equine program including that a horse representative be appointed to the 4-H Advisory Council to better serve, educate, and develop the future leaders of the industry.
13. The Task Force recommends that the Virginia Horse Council appoint a representative to the Disaster Animal Care and Control Committee working with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to keep the industry involved in the development of a statewide disaster plan. The Virginia Horse Council should be charged with developing a disaster plan in concert with Cooperative Extension and the plan should be posted on both the VHC and the Cooperative Extension websites.
14. The Task Force recommends funding for a position in the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Marketing Division for Agritourism promotion and support. The position would work with the Virginia Tourism Corporation to promote the horse industry as well as other segments of agritourism. This includes development of more public/private partnerships and providing education, information, and guidance in helping to make the industry and its facilities more accessible to equine enthusiasts and tourists and assist in promoting these facilities.
15. Due to the complexity of the application of sales and use taxes on the equine industry in Virginia, the Task Force recommends that this issue should undergo further study on ways to level the playing field through changes to the regulations and/or legislative action to make the laws more compatible with existing laws for other livestock species and to remove any deterrents to non-residents coming to Virginia to engage in horse-related activities.
16. Due to the issue being considered by the U.S. Congress, the Task Force recommends that the slaughter of horses for human food and the exportation of horsemeat as human food need not be addressed any further by this equine industry group.