Would you be willing to pay an extra 2p or 3p on each bag of feed you buy to fund equine research and education ventures?

That is the question horse owners in Illinois are being asked to vote on today (7 October) by the Horsemen’s Council of Illinois (HCI), a statewide coalition of horsemen, which represents all breeds and disciplines.

The council is appealing to horse owners across the state to vote “yes” in the “Illinois Equine Checkoff Referendum”. If successful, horseowners will be volunteering to spend an additional $0.05 per 50lb feed bag, with the money raised being used to fund research, education and outreach projects for the equine industry.

The scheme is estimated to add $1.80 (about £1.08) on to the cost of horseownership (per horse per year), and will raise up to $400,000 annually, based on the HCI’s belief that there are 77,000 horse owners in Illinois and more than 200,000 horses.

Frank Bowman of HCI says: “The University of Illinois Extension Service, who is hosting Tuesday’s referendum is anticipating around 5,000 votes will be cast.

“HCI has been working feverishly to get the word out about the programme and reach as many affected horse owners as possible. All of the state’s major farm and equine publications, many local newspapers, club and association newsletters and many radio stations have carried or aired articles on the checkoff.

“HCI has also met face-to-face with horse owners statewide in meetings and at promotional events to publicize the referendum.”

Assuming the referendum is successful, the money will be allocated by the Illinois Equine Industry Research and Promotion Board. The members of this board will be appointed by the HCI.

“The Illinois checkoff programme is fashioned after an apparently successful programme in North Carolina, which has been in existence for the past two years. HCI has been working on the project for approximately the same amount of time,” says Frank.

“The Commonwealth of Virginia also has an equine checkoff programme. I’d anticipate that many of the most active state horse councils will consider similar legislation in the next few years as state and funding for equine research, education and promotion continues to decline or is funnelled towards other uses.”

Horse owners who do not wish to contribute would be able to obtain a refund by applying in writing with their feed receipt.

The Illinois equine industry supports over 15,000 full time jobs, generating more than $3.8billion in products and services.

All horse owners who live in the state can vote in the referendum, regardless of their age. Voters will have to sign an affidavit verifying Illinois residency, and provide one of five specified documents such as current registration for an equine or a feed receipt as proof of horse ownership.

Horse owners can vote today between 8am and 4.30pm at the University of Illinois Extension office or their local Extension Unit.

  • How would you vote in such a referendum? Do you think a similar scheme would be successful in Britain? Let us know your views in the forum.