Wednesday, February 29, 2012

At least four states consider deer-farming bills

A bill moving through the West Virginia Legislature would classify white-tailed deer as livestock, allow farm-raised venison to be sold in grocery stores and restaurants, The Associated Press reports. At least three other state legislatures are considering similar bills: Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia. Critics say the bill would make wild deer more vulnerable to chronic-wasting disease and threaten states' hunting and tourism industries. (AP photo)

Lobbyists for the National Deer Farmers Association say West Virginia deer farmers, who typically raise the animals for shooting preserves, have tried for a decade to get the legislature to designate their animals as livestock so they can sell the meat. Deer deemed unfit for preserves are usually euthanized because the state limits the number farms can maintain. "The public has told us they would love to buy it. It's a good, healthy meat, low in calories and low in cholesterol," NDFA spokesman Marcel Fortin said.

The bill would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture authority over the farms, replacing the state Department of Natural Resources, which opposes the bill. DNR Supervisor of Game Management Chris Ryan said confined deer can contract disease that can spread to native herds, especially if laws are changed to allow interstate transport of deer. (Read more)

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