By Jeffrey Howard

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Walking Horse Trainers’ Association (WHTA) held their annual general membership meeting on December 6, 2013 at the Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro.  President Mickey McCormick repeatedly urged his membership, “We need you to help and be involved.  Our time is now and we have to help.”  In the earlier board meeting the board voted to form a legislative committee to help coordinate the efforts and McCormick urged members to help and join the committee.  McCormick made his remarks before and after the presentation given by lobbyist Jeff Speaks. 

Speaks began by asking the trainers to understand the resources lined up against them in the fight for the survival of their livelihood.  “You in this room have more at stake than anyone and the opponent is seeking to end your industry,” said Speaks.  Speaks reminded the trainers of the attempt of the Whitfield camp to have the amendment attached to the Farm Bill, which failed and the hearing held before the subcommittee on November 13, 2013.

“Do not underestimate the resources against you and they will continue to fight and come at you.  This is a top priority of the Humane Society and Congressman Whitfield and his staff,” warned Speaks.  Speaks also begged the trainers to take the personal initiative to contact their members of Congress as constituents who place a vote for or against each member.

“You all have a network of people and clients you deal with.  Our biggest hurdle is educating the members with the truth and the facts about your industry.  It starts with you taking the time and effort to write a letter, send an email or place a phone call and then to continue that within your network,” said Speaks.  “HSUS is very good at what they do and they are equipped with millions of dollars to help spread the story they are telling.”

Speaks then educated the trainers on the potential options on how the bill could progress.  He informed them that it could be sought through a discharge petition which would bypass the typical committee process and bring the bill to the floor.  The Whitfield camp could attempt to place on the suspension calendar however Speaks reiterated that this is typically for non-controversial bills.  The bill could also go through the normal committee process.

In addition to the House bill, the Senate also has a version that was introduced by Senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from New Hampshire.  Speaks indicated the possibility for a Senate hearing early in 2014 on the bill.

The WHTA also held their election in conjunction with the meeting.  Mickey McCormick was elected President, Bill Cantrell 1st Vice President and David Landrum 2nd Vice President.  Newly elected to serve on the board were Edgar Abernathy, Jeff Green, Ross Campbell and Link Webb.

In conclusion, the board and membership thanked McCormick for his service as well as the efforts of Speaks and those members of the industry that have spent countless hours over the last year helping in the battle to save the show horse industry.