The Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the Kentucky Equine Education Project, and the Kentucky Horse Council announced Oct. 6 that horses have been added to the "Kentucky Proud" program, a move officials said is huge for the Thoroughbred breeding industry.
As new members of Kentucky Proud, horse farms in Kentucky will be eligible to receive financial grants from the state Department of Agriculture, will be eligible to participate in a cost-share program, and will be able to use the Kentucky Proud logo in advertising their equine products.
The Kentucky Proud program was created to promote Kentucky agricultural products. Over the years the program has grown significantly and now includes businesses that support and sell Kentucky products as well as those that promote the concept of buying agricultural products from Kentucky.
"Both KEEP and the KHC have worked for years to promote Kentucky’s equine industry," KEEP executive director Patrick Neely said. "The addition of horses to the Kentucky Proud program will allow Kentucky horse farms to apply for grants and to grow their businesses by joining the well-known Kentucky Proud advertising and marketing initiatives."
Neely said the program was a much-needed boost for the Kentucky Thoroughbred industry in the midst of the tough economic climate.
“Obviously every bit of revenue we can put back into the industry is a positive thing,” Neely said. “This a program that does distribute funding to other agricultural programs that had not contributed to horse farms until now, so we saw this as part of our mission of trying to improve the economics of the industry.”
The inclusion of horses in the Kentucky Proud program could bring equines closer to being recognized as livestock, which could have beneficial tax implications.
In recent years, KEEP has pushed for legislation that would remove the sales tax on equine feed and supplies in Kentucky. If horses are categorized as agricultural livestock instead of companion animals, the sales tax would automatically be eliminated and would no longer require a new legislation.
Bill Clary, director of public relations for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and brand manager of Kentucky Proud advertising, said the inclusion of horses in the program will not expand the organization’s regular yearly budget. He noted that farm owners that wish to promote specific horses may now apply for a grant with the department, state how much they want to spend on their marketing campaign, and request the state to pay 50%.
“If it’s a reasonable cost and meets our guidelines, we would enter into a contract with the farm, they would record their expenditures, and we would reimburse them for up to 50% of the cost,” Clary said. “Theoretically, one of them could apply today, and we could have the approval within a week if it’s small enough.
"If it’s more than $5,000 we have a committee that votes on them once a month. We’re hoping a lot of people get involved with this, because the equine industry is so important to the state’s economy.”
David Switzer, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ Association, said Fayette County Farm Bureau president Frank Penn played a vital role in the early stages of the Kentucky Proud program. Penn worked diligently behind the scenes in conjunction with the KTA to get horses included in the program, he said.
“It has finally come to fruition--this is something that will allow those farms and business that register to the program to possibly be eligible for some co-op advertising,” Switzer said. “It’s a good thing. It's another step showing we’re part of agriculture, and that’s something we’ve worked on for many years.”
Individually, farms should contact KEEP or the Kentucky Horse Council for applications and more information on the Kentucky Proud program. Once approved, farms will have access to all the services and support that the Kentucky Department of Agriculture gives to members of that program, including marketing assistance and product promotion, as well as participation in a cost-share program.