Voters asked to take stand on horse referendum

By: By Eileen Coite - Contributing columnist

Horse and other equine animal owners/lessors will vote across the state on March 8, to determine whether to continue to voluntarily assess themselves $4 per ton of commercial horse feed in order to provide funds to promote the interests of the horse industry.

Eileen Coite, County Extension Director, says the vote in Sampson County will take place in the County Extension Center, located at 55 Agriculture Place, Clinton, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Any North Carolina resident who has reached his/her 9th birthday as of Jan. 1, 2017 and who has complete or partial ownership or lease of an equine (horse, pony, mule, donkey or hinny) is eligible to vote. Individuals must sign a statement certifying eligibility at time of voting.

Since many horse owners work away from home during business hours, a provision has been made for absentee voting. Between the dates of Feb. 20 – March 8, horse owners 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 8, and will be counted along with others on March 9.

If the vote is favorable on March 9, the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will continue to receive the assessment funds from manufacturers and/or distributors of horse feed, and will remit the money to the NC Horse Council. The Horse Council has indicated that the funds will be 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 agricultural commodities have similar voluntary assessment programs. Horsemen may receive a refund of the assessment by writing to the NC Horse Council within a year of purchase and including proof of purchase. For more information about the referendum, contact the Sampson County Extension Center at 910-592-7161.

By Eileen Coite

Contributing columnist