Kentucky Legislators: Horse Industry Deserves Better

Two Democratic legislators in Kentucky have formally asked Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher why the horse industry won’t have broad representation at an agriculture summit scheduled for March 15 in Louisville.

According to the state Web site, the summit will feature several speakers, including Dean Scott Smith of the University of Kentucky. But Reps. Royce Adams and Susan Westrom said that’s not enough representation for a horse industry that annually contributes $4 billion to the state’s economy and generates 80,000-100,000 jobs.

“Considering that this industry is so vital to our state, we are amazed that other businesses are perceived as more important; proven repeatedly by conversations of tax breaks and incentives for specific industries, such as Ford in Louisville,” said the letter hand-delivered to Fletcher’s office March 8. “Does Ford really contribute more to our economy than this vast industry which survives despite the tax inequity which favors livestock and crop farmers?”

The letter also said: “It is ironic that the international equine community recognized the Kentucky equine industry is ready to compete at the international level by awarding the 2010 World Equestrian Events to Kentucky. They obviously did not know that this same industry is not even considered a part of the state agriculture conversation.”

Westrom on March 9 said the agenda for the agriculture summit “would be somewhat broader” if the horse industry were included. She said the summit would offer a chance for attendees to connect with legislators.

An organizer of the summit couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

“The only person with any ties to the horse industry is Dean Scott Smith,” Westrom said. “It’s so far beyond my comprehension why this administration does not understand the contribution the equine industry makes to the economy of this state. This has been an amazing irritation for me.”

Fletcher, when he took office, championed the horse industry. The state also adopted the logo “Unbridled Spirit,” which references a horse.

Westrom, Adams, Rep. Sen. Damon Thayer, and others have supported tax-equity legislation for the equine industry, but officials have said it has little chance of passage during the current session because it is tied to the state budget.