Deer farmers want consistent business rules

spectr17

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June 27, 2002

Deer farmers’ livelihood threatened

National association sounds off on emergency chronic wasting disease rules

By Peter Rebhahn, Green Bay Press Gazette
prebhahn@greenbaypressgazette.com

Leaders of the nation’s largest deer-farming group said in Green Bay Wednesday they will ask states to develop consistent rules for testing of chronic wasting disease and interstate transfer of deer — rules they say are crucial to the future of their industry.

“You’re talking at risk billions of dollars, thousands of jobs and loss of full-time farms,” said David Griffith, a Huntingdon, Pa., farmer who heads that state’s Deer Farmers Association.

Griffith was one of about 50 industry leaders from the Appleton-based North American Deer Farming Association who wrapped up a two-day policymaking session Wednesday in Green Bay. The association has more than 1,000 members in 45 states, Mexico and Canada.

Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection enacted emergency rules in April that include a ban on importation of deer and elk unless the animals have been part of a herd monitored for chronic wasting disease for at least five years. The ban is a de facto moratorium on transfer because no herd in North America meets the standard.

Other states have reacted predictably to Wisconsin’s importation ban and the bad news about the state’s wild deer herd, and state farmers are feeling the pinch, said Northeastern Wisconsin farmer and association member Gary Nelson.

“There’s nothing happening in terms of my getting sales,” said Nelson, who operates several farms from his home in the Florence County hamlet of Fence.

As with cattle farming, the deer farming industry revolves around genetics, and long-term state bans on transfer of animals would amount to a death sentence for the industry, said Griffith. “It’s basically shutting down the industry across the United States,” he said.

Phyllis Menden, the association’s executive director, said the deer farming industry has been unfairly blamed by some for the spread of chronic wasting disease to Wisconsin. “There are no facts to back up what you read in the magazines,” she said.

The disease has been found in wild deer and elk herds in the West, and in captive elk herds, but never in captive deer herds, she said. Wisconsin’s chronic wasting disease outbreak is the first occurrence of the disease east of the Mississippi River.

No chronic wasting test exists for live animals. Wisconsin currently has a voluntary testing program in which participants agree to test all animals that die. State officials plan to replace emergency rules with permanent rules early next year.

The association doesn’t oppose emergency rules in Wisconsin and elsewhere, but wants states to work together to create uniform rules for transfer that include mandatory testing of deer herds for chronic wasting disease. “Now it’s time for political and legislative decisions to be made on the basis of science, not hysteria,” Nelson said.

But Nelson said rules that lift state import and export bans won’t lift the stigma for state farmers. “I still will have a harder time placing my animals because there’s CWD in the wild deer herd in Wisconsin,” he said.
 
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Nobody should be raising deer and elk anyway. If they want to raise animals, what's wrong with cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, and chickens?

(Edited by Washington Hunter at 1:31 am on June 29, 2002)
 

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