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Blackburn visits Shelbyville

Senator expresses support for Walking Horse industry

By ZOË WATKINS - zwatkins@t-g.com
Posted 1/21/23

Sen. Marsha Blackburn met with representatives from Bedford County, Shelbyville City, and the Tennessee Walking Horse board on Tuesday.

The Q&A events were part of her 95-county tour she does …

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Blackburn visits Shelbyville

Senator expresses support for Walking Horse industry


Sen. Marsha Blackburn met with representatives from Bedford County, Shelbyville City, and the Tennessee Walking Horse board on Tuesday.

The Q&A events were part of her 95-county tour she does annually.

“I meet with each one of our 95 counties every year,” Blackburn, a Republican, said. In these meetings, she has talked about the ARP (American Rescue Plan) funds as well as any concerns the counties have. They also write letters of support for grants.

Horse industry support

Meeting with members of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration Board of Directors, she said they talked about concerns with the PAST (Prevent All Soring Tactics) Act. The propopsed act would “expand soring regulation and enforcement at horse shows, exhibitions, sales, and auctions, including by establishing a new system for inspecting horses for soring,” as well as increase penalties for violations, as stated on Congress’ official website.

Essentially, what this would do, Blackburn explained to the Times-Gazette, is add regulations and disallow certain equipment and processes for the Walking Horse industry which are allowed for other breeds of horses.

“It’s an ongoing conversation with them. And Congressman DesJarlais and Senator Hagerty and I have worked on the issue, making certain we preserve the Walking Horse industry,” Blackburn said.

“We know that there are those who would like to shut it down. We think their accusations are unfair. We know that the industry has worked tirelessly to make certain bad actors are moved out of the industry and that the welfare of the horses is properly tended.”

Protection pledged

Protecting one of Bedford’s original industries is important, Blackburn said, because “they’re the ones that the Humane Association is trying to shut down.” She feels if the Walking Horse industry is shut down then critics of the industry will move on to other equine industries and rodeos.

“It will not stop,” Blackburn said.

She said some of her big takeaways from the meeting were that the Walking Horse industry is working hard and taking the proper steps to protect themselves.

“They exercise a lot of initiative...They fully appreciate and have so much respect for the owners and trainers and breeders and the individuals that work at The Celebration and they expect to see that continue,” said Blackburn.

“It was great to have Sen. Blackburn on the Celebration grounds,” Celebration CEO Warren Wells said. “She has been a longtime supporter of The Celebration and the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. It means so much when someone at her level reaches out to us for a meeting so she can stay on top of our issues and needs. We are grateful for her friendship.”

Ag support

That fight against excessive regulation also applies to the family farmers of Tennessee.

“It doesn’t matter what part of the state we’re in—West, Middle, or East—you’ve got the agriculture community that is very active,” said Blackburn.

Agriculture is still the state’s No. 1 export. And these small, family farms are typically the ones farming produce as well as cattle and pork. Broadly, their exports affect the food supply chain across the region.

“It is their livelihood, and so we work to make certain they have the right environment in which the growth that they’re wanting to see can take place,” Blackburn said.

That “right environment,” according to Blackburn, is one that is not regulatory heavy. That is, the small and family farmers can make the decisions for themselves so they can continue to be what size they want.

After meeting with Blackburn, Bedford County Mayor Chad Graham commented, “Bedford County was honored to host Sen. Blackburn as she travels across the state of Tennessee connecting with local governments as well as our citizens.”

He said the event allowed the county to highlight the investments made through ARP funds for critical infrastructures. Graham added, “She also discussed federal legislation that will benefit job training programs like those offered at TCAT-Shelbyville, and I’m always happy to hear about and support improvements to our educational system.”

Vo-tech growth

Outside of the agricultural industry, Tennessee—and especially Bedford County—is seeing a growth in vocational and technical education.

Addressing growth of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology institute in Bedford and the surrounding region, Blackburn said Gov. Bill Lee and the General Assembly made TCATs and community colleges a priority so that there is a workforce for companies wanting to come here.

“In the areas of advanced manufacturing, commercial driving, nursing technologies—those classes that are most prevalent in our TCATs and community colleges—making certain that when there is a federal component that it lines up with what we are doing with those courses,” said Blackburn.

For example, Blackburn was a proponent of lowering the commercial driver’s license age to 18 so students who are 16 and 17 years can start to take classes, receive their CDL at 18, and begin to log in more hours.

“Not everyone needs a diploma. Not everyone wants a diploma. Looking at certifications to do certain jobs, whether it’s skilled labor, technology, or healthcare, hitting those certifications levels is important,” said Blackburn.

Creating burgeoning workforce development, according to Blackburn, lets parents know there are opportunities in the community for their children.