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Deer farming expansion bill headed to governor

Charleston Gazette file photo by Chris Dorst
Charleston Gazette file photo by Chris Dorst

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia lawmakers paved the way Thursday for the expansion of deer farming across the state.

Legislators passed a bill (SB237) that transfers regulatory control of deer farms from the Division of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture — a move that will allow the farms to raise deer for slaughter and sell venison for the first time. West Virginia, a state known for big bucks, has fewer than 50 deer farms.

“This industry needs to grow,” said Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood.

Legislators are calling the bill — previously passed by the Senate and headed to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for his signature — the “Captive Cervid Farming Act.” Cervid refers to mammals such as white-tailed deer and elk. But lawmakers said it’s been farmers who have been held captive by antiquated regulations and a DNR that’s tried to derail deer farming for years.

“Hopefully…when the [governor] signs [the bill], the deer farmers can say, ‘Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, [we are] free at last,’ Anderson said, repeating the famous quote by Martin Luther King Jr.

West Virginia lawmakers have wrangled over similar deer farming bills for at least eight years. Sportsmen’s groups have opposed the legislation, warning that the farms could cause the spread of chronic wasting disease, which kills deer…

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