About the horse referendum

Tiffanee Conrad Extension @ Your Service

February 17, 2014

The North Carolina Horse Council (NCHC) will be holding an equine industry referendum to extend the Horse Industry Promotion Assessment.

This assessment was first authorized in 1999 through House Bill 1529. The referendum will be conducted on March 11 in all of North Carolina’s 100 counties. You may vote in our county anytime from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 123 Caroline St. in Rockingham at our Cooperative Extension Center.

Anyone who is a horse owner or leaser, over the age of nine as of Jan. 1, 2014, can vote. That is any North Carolina resident who has complete or partial ownership or lease of an equine (horse, pony, mule, donkey or hinny). Horse owners will be able to vote on whether or not to extend, for three years, the $2 per ton assessment being paid by manufacturers of horse feed sold in North Carolina. If the referendum passes, each feed manufacturer or distributor (not retailer) will send a nickel per 50 pound bag or $2 per ton to the NC Department of Agriculture. The Department of Agriculture consolidates the funds and sends them to NCHC.

The feed assessment has provided essential funding to the North Carolina Horse Council to meet a wide variety of needs throughout the horse industry. The economic impact of the horse industry is estimated to be over $1.2 billion annually, so it plays a huge role in supporting the NC economy. Employment of more than 10,000 people in North Carolina are directly or indirectly linked to the industry. This small self-assessment is just one way NCHC can expand services to horse owners and maximize the economic benefits of horse ownership.

The funds are used for 4-H and other youth and educational 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. Many other North Carolina agricultural commodities have similar voluntary assessment programs such as beef, strawberry, peanuts, and soybean. The assessment is not a tax since it is not for the support of a government; the proposed self-assessment is for the interests of horse owners.

There will also be an absentee balloting system put in place for owners who are not able to get to the Extension Offices on March 11. Between Feb. 24 and March 10, horse owners or leasers may visit or phone the County Extension Center and request a ballot and absentee registration form. These must be turned in to the Extension Office by March 10, and will be counted along with others on March 11. All voters must sign a certificate of eligibility, swearing that they are eligible, and will provide proof of such if asked. “Yes” indicates a vote in favor of continuing the assessment. “No” indicates a vote against continuing the assessment.

The assessment is refundable if you choose not to participate in the program. You must simply save your feed receipts, send them to the Horse Council, and receive a full refund of the assessment you have paid. The request must be submitted to the North Carolina Horse Council within one year of purchase and must be accompanied by proof of purchase. The estimated average cost per horse per year for this voluntary assessment is $1.80. Based on collections from the first two years of the assessment, annual receipts have generated approximately $200,000.

For additional information on the horse referendum or other livestock issues, please contact Tiffanee Conrad, Agricultural Extension Agent at 997-8255 or email at