Effort to Authorize Whitetail Deer Farming Renewed

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An East Tennessee legislator is again trying to get approval for commercial deer farms after a similar effort failed last year.
Rep. Frank Nicely, R-Strawberry Plains, has accused opponents of his bill of spreading disinformation. However, the measure has raised alarm among hunting groups and wildlife conservation advocates, according to The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/xT3W9v).
When Nicely crafted the bill (HB3164) this year, he steered it to the House Agriculture Committee, which he chairs. A similar measure last year received little support before the chamber’s Conservation and Environment subcommittee.
The Tennessee Wildlife Federation says deer farms open the state to the possibility of chronic wasting disease.
The committee heard testimony on the bill Tuesday and it was limited to the state veterinarian.
“Actually, bringing in 10 more deer would probably be no more a risk than bringing in 10 more head of cattle,” Niceley said, referring to infectious disease.
He then asked Charlie Hatcher, Tennessee Department of Agriculture veterinarian, “Would you agree — or could you almost agree with that?”
Hatcher replied that deer brought into the state would have to meet import requirements, including health documentation.
“Assuming that people follow the rules, the risk would be reduced,” Hatcher said.
Before the committee met, Nicely said the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the TWF are behind public criticism of his bill and said elk and exotic deer have been brought into Tennessee that importing white-tailed deer would be no different.
Proponents say deer could be raised as livestock for meat, hides, antler velvet and urine– the latter processed to mask the human scent of hunters.
A hunting group has been critical of the proposal, saying it is an economic danger to the state.
Dick Davis with the Middle Tennessee chapter of the Quality Deer Management Association said the state’s economy gets more than $500 million yearly from deer hunting.
“This bill endangers that economic benefit for the creation of a relatively few jobs with no benefit to wildlife or conservation,” he wrote to lawmakers.
Mike Alder, who represents the North American Deer Farmers Association, said 23 states allow deer farming. Adler said no deer would be brought into Tennessee from states with cases of chronic wasting disease.

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