Sandra Fiser | 4/26/2005 8:28:46 PM
"We have to become a business," Diana Boudreaux of Abbeville said of the Louisiana horse industry, stressing, "We have to come together."
Boudreaux was one of about 60 participants at the Louisiana Equine Industry Forum held last week (Nov. 9) at the Lod Cook Conference Center on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge.
The forum, sponsored by the LSU AgCenter and the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, brought together people from all aspects of the horse industry to discuss common interests, said Dr. David Morrison, associate vice chancellor for research in the LSU AgCenter.
Dr. Bill Richardson, LSU AgCenter chancellor, said AgCenter economists estimate the Louisiana horse industry generates $1 billion or more in economic activity each year in the state. He said the meeting will address the future of the industry and where it’s going.
Industry representatives have been discussing whether some sort of check-off program for the horse industry. Observers said a check-off could be placed at a few cents for each bag of horse feed sold in the state, and the money would be allocated to supporting the industry.
"Before we go to the legislature, we have to have some understanding of what you want – if you want anything," Ronnie Anderson, president of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, told the meeting.
John Boudreaux, Diana’s husband and chairman of the Farm Bureau’s equine advisory committee, presented an analysis of funding opportunities and sources, including a check-off program.
Explaining more about how the industry could go to the Louisiana Legislature and seek a referendum, Anderson said, "The horse industry in Louisiana has a huge impact on the economy of the state. Come to us with some good direction, and we’ll be glad to help you."
During the rest of the meeting, participants heard LSU AgCenter economists present background information on the current status of the horse industry in Louisiana and then met in small groups to identify what they see as major industry issues.
Industry unity, promotion and marketing, and education and research emerged as the leading issues.
"We’ve got some problems as an industry that we can overcome by getting together to talk about them," said Dianne Morrill of Prairieville, who was representing the Louisiana Arabian Horse Association.
"We need one voice to speak to the Legislature," she said.
Diana Boudreaux, who with her husband owns horses, agreed.
"I see the importance of it for the state of Louisiana and for us as horsepersons," she said.
Nicholas Cole of the Louisiana FFA Association said he was attending the forum to represent the educational portion of the industry.
One of the challenges facing the industry is labor, and the FFA has started a pilot program in St. Landry Parish to teach about maintaining horses and horse facilities, he said.
"I’m here to learn about the industry and the role we can play," Cole said.
According to Dr. Steve Henning of the LSU AgCenter’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, the horse industry, including recreational, competition and racing horses, has an economic impact of more than $1.5 billion on the Louisiana economy.
The LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana Summary of Agriculture and Natural Resources for 2003 reports the gross farm value of horses sold and services provided totaled nearly $325 million.
Writer: Rick Bogren at (225) 578-5839 or email@example.com