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Bill targets deadly deer disease with tighter proposed restrictions on farms

Deer populations are under threat by chronic wasting disease, a deadly disease that can spread from one animal to another.

It's been found in 29 states, including Minnesota.

Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville) sponsors HF1202, a package of proposals directed at cervid farms with a goal of curbing the spread of the disease. Its provisions include tighter fencing, testing, and reporting requirements.

The bill would also put a moratorium on licenses for white-tailed deer farms. 

One of 500,000 deer hunters in the state, Becker-Finn says her primary source of protein is venison.

“The idea that deer who are infected with CWD – because of the things we’re not taking care of now ­– would not be safe for my family to eat. That is my biggest fear,” Becker-Finn said.

Tuesday, the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee adopted an sponsor’s amendment and two others before approving the bill and sending it to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee.

Among other things the bill would:

  • make public the location of cervid farms;
  • require annual live-animal testing of all farmed white-tailed deer;
  • give sole authority for regulating white-tailed deer to the Department of Natural Resources; and
  • restrict movement of live cervid and cervid semen in some cases.

Saying the state needs to help farmers who are caught in a bad situation, Rep. John Burkel (R-Badger) unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have appropriated $11.1 million for a voluntary buyout program.

Representing the Minnesota Deer Farmers Association, Tim Spreck calls the bill an industry killer with costly provisions that wouldn’t do much to slow or stop the disease’s spread. Some farmers would have to spend up to $100,000 to meet fencing requirements, he told the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee earlier this session.

Moreover, some in the industry believe farms could contribute to management of chronic wasting disease by breeding genetic resistance into their herds.

However, Becker-Finn said interfering with the genetics of wild animals is bad policy.

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