Deer controversy clouds Missouri ag bill

  • A provision in the Senate and House versions of the Missouri Omnibus Agriculture Bill shifts authority over Missouri’s captive deer herds from the state’s Department of Conservation to the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

    The Missouri Department of Conservation is against the change.  Deputy Director Tim Ripperger says, captive or not, his agency should retain authority over deer in Missouri.

    “Most deer in Missouri are not raised for food consumption, but are actually raised to go into big hunting pens or big game hunting preserves,” Ripperger told Brownfield Ag News Monday, “and that’s something that the Department of Conservation does regulate, including elk in that regard.”

    Missouri Dairy Association Executive Director Dave Drennan says controversy surrounding the captive deer provision is taking attention away from the bill’s other provisions that benefit agriculture in the state.  Drennan says editorials in some of Missouri’s major newspapers against the deer provision leave the impression that there’s little else in the legislation.

    “All of our other issues in these Omnibus Ag bills have taken a back burner,” Drennan told Brownfield.

    Among many agriculture provisions in the bill, Drennan says there’s one that could improve the state’s declining dairy industry.  For Missouri dairy farmers, there’s a provision that dovetails with the Federal Farm Bill’s dairy margin protection program.

    “Right now Missouri has the opportunity to be a leader amongst all other states and adopt a program that would provide some kind of support to our dairy farmers in this state to maintain a local milk supply,” said Drennan, “and more importantly maintain our dairy processing industry and our infrastructure in this state.”

    Drennan says the dairy provision, known as the Missouri Dairy Revitalization Act, is among several that benefit agriculture.

    Another increases the hauling limits for livestock on Missouri highways, while another modifies provisions relating to evidence of financial responsibility for certified commercial pesticide applicators.

    Livestock producers back a provision in the legislation that enables Missouri cattle producers the opportunity to vote whether or not they want to increase their investment in the Missouri beef checkoff.  They also favor a provision that extends the equine liability waiver to all livestock, as well as the provision that continues the large animal veterinarian student loan program.

    A dozen of the state’s ag groups are urging Governor Nixon to sign the legislation.

    AUDIO: Dave Drennan (5 min. MP3)

    AUDIO: Tim Ripperger (4 min. MP3)

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  • What this article fails to mention is that the Missouri Deer Association has been trying to get the Missouri Department of Conservation to allow us to sell the meat from our animals for over 10 years. That effort has been unsuccessful due to the MDC not allowing it. If these bills are signed we will be allowed to do just that. The Missouri Department of Agriculture has been doing all of our extensive health and movement programs for the last 10 years. Our deer industry is the most regulated, tested and healthiest animal industry in the state.

    The issue is this:

    Are our captive privately owned deer Wildlife owned by the state?

    We don’t think so and our part of the bill simply classifies them as livestock. When a captive operation is started all the wild deer of the state must be excluded from the operation. These captive deer are then paid for and legally acquired from other captive sources of deer in Missouri or other states. We have bills of sales. They are 100% cared for, tested, fed, and everything is provided by their owners. We pay property tax on them. They can never be released and will die behind high fence. The USDA recognizes them as livestock. Most surrounding states classify them as livestock and they are managed by their Agriculture Departments.

    The captive privately owned elk were classified as livestock in 1995. So currently in Missouri we have captive elk behind fence which are livestock and controlled by the Missouri Department of Agriculture and we have wild free ranging elk released by MDC which are wildlife.

    It is ambiguous and a waste of time and resources to be under the jurisdiction of 2 agencies, especially when one wants you out of business. Our industry can only survive and grow under the jurisdiction of the Missouri Department of Agriculture. We provide 133 million in economic activity to rural communities. And lastly we are absolutely no threat to the wild deer herd and will continue to work with the Missouri Department of Agriculture to maintain our excellent health programs.

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