CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia Senate has approved measures to promote and regulate deer farming.
Under the bill approved Saturday, the Department of Agriculture would regulate deer raised for meat and for breeding purposes. The Division of Natural Resources would regulate fencing and pen sizes.
Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, said deer are already being farmed in West Virginia under the oversight of DNR, which opposes using deer as an agricultural product.
"The purpose of this bill is really to move most of the regulation under the Department of Agriculture so we can promote the industry and provide safe and reasonable regulations," Hall said. Current DNR regulations are "making it tough" for deer farmers across the state, he added.
Hall said promoting deer farming allows landowners in the mountainous southern regions to have an agricultural product suited to local landscape. "You don't have to have 100 acres of flat land. You can fence in 10 acres on a mountain and raise some deer," he said.
According to Senators Hall and Ronald Miller, D-Greenbrier, farmers can raise fallow deer, red deer, axis deer, moose, reindeer and caribou for meat. Farmers may also raise white-tail deer and elk for breeding and sport.
Hall said the real money in deer farming is not the sale of meat because deer simply don't have the yield of cows. He said some farmers may run a game reserve or sell their deer to game reserves where tourists pay top dollar to take home a large trophy buck.
There are already such farm-reserves, like Mountain Meadow Hunting Preserve in Monroe County, where top-paying tourists are being turned away because of DNR controls.
Critics of the bill are concerned about chronic wasting disease being brought into the state and killing native white-tail deer. Miller said chronic wasting disease is currently present in Hampshire County, West Virginia, and bordering counties of Virginia. Miller said the DNR would still oversee protection from this disease.
Changes to the bill made in the Senate must still be approved by the House; however, Miller expects the bill to go into conference Saturday evening.