A levy could be added to wormers in Australia.
The industry has until December 1 to get agreement on a national disease-fighting levy or the government has indicated it will allow voluntary vaccination against equine influenza.
Such a move is also certain to result in a requirement for five weeks of quarantine for horses crossing the Tasman to New Zealand, adding around $5000 to each import.
Without agreement, there will also be no national cost-shared response to any incursion of an exotic horse disease.
Industry agreement on a levy means the horse sector can become a signatory to the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement. This means the government will underwrite the cost of fighting any disease incursion, but can then levy the industry to recover the money.
Livestock industries take different approaches to the levy system. Some impose a levy now and have accrued a "fighting fund" while others have mechanisms in place whereby levies are not imposed until there is money to be repaid to the government.
It is expected the horse industry levy will be set at zero until such time as there is money to repay.
The Australian Horse Industry Council (AHIC) has released a discussion paper outlining possible levy mechanisms.
The system need not be restricted to one method of collection, meaning owners could face levies on shoes, wormers and events.
The levy can be set at different levels for different industry sectors. For example, racing plates could attract a higher levy.
AHIC president Roger Lavelle pointed to the challenges in finding a suitable levy mechanism for horses, given the divergent nature of the industry.
Lavelle said the council had been working with the Department Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to identify levy mechanisms.
"There were three key points to the advice received," he said.
"Different types of levies can be imposed on the industry at the same time. For example, a horseshoe levy could be imposed in addition to an event registration levy.
"A levy can be imposed on multiple occasions in respect of the same horse. For example, a levy can be imposed each time a horse registers for an event.
"Different rates of levy can be set for different industry sectors. For example, the levy for racing plates could be higher than for other horseshoes.
"The council has been trying to explore ways in which the number of units to be levied will be as high as possible and the levy per unit as low as possible."
Lavelle said it was important collection costs for the levy were kept at a minimum.
Current options up for the discussion are:
Horse registration levy
To be imposed on horses registered with organisations as occurs with the racing sector, some horse organisations which have competition cards and breed societies. Registration of horses is not practiced across the whole industry, which means some organisations would need to alter their current administration practices to be able to comply. The levy would be paid in the registration fees. This means there would be no need for receipts for individual horses. The council said it may be possible to link human membership of organisations where that membership is linked to horse ownership, as the mechanism an organisation might use to have the levy imposed. This would be simpler than horse registration and would probably pick up many extra organisations, the council said.
Event registration levy
This would involve levying a horse each time it went to an event, such as a race meeting, show, competition or rally. The more times a horse travels to an event the greater risk it becomes. To make the audit process simple, the levy would have to be imposed on the event organisers who would recoup their costs in the pre-entry paperwork in a similar manner to facility fees, yard costs and so on. The levy costs per participant would be remitted by the event organisers to their state or national body, which would pass them on to the levy collection services.
Horse shoe levy
This has the advantage of higher unit numbers, which would enable the levy cost per unit to be small. It is thought that between 700,000 to 800,000 sets of shoes are sold each year, which would cover about 100,000 horses. The levy could be applied when putting on a shoe, at the manufacture of a shoe or at the sale of a shoe. For audit purposes the simplest levy point is at the importation level. This would require careful negotiation with the importers to ensure there was as little impact on their day-to-day business as possible, the council said.
The council said the great appeal of this levy was the widespread use of worming programmes across the many different sectors of the horse industry. The unit numbers would be the greatest for any common transaction in the horse industry. To make the audit process simple the levy would need to be imposed on the drug companies or wholesalers. which would recoup their costs through small increases in the costs to customers.