Legislation to expand the state’s deer farming industry cleared the state House and Senate Tuesday as part of a larger agriculture bill.
Senate Bill 513 – the N.C. Farm Act of 2015 – is headed to Gov. Pat McCrory after passing the Senate in a 44-2 vote and the House in a 70-44 vote.
The bill would transfer the regulation of the deer farming industry from the Wildlife Resources Commission to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, under the theory that deer farming is more akin to livestock than hunting. Deer are raised for meat and for their antlers, and to breed to sell.
The wildlife commission has restricted deer farming out of concerns about chronic wasting disease, a devastating disease that has wiped out deer in other states.
Rep. Jimmy Dixon, a Duplin County Republican, said the bill is needed to overturn those restrictions. “We’re talking about property rights,” he said. “Deer farming is a legal activity, and we have certain people that want to put the deer farmers out of business.”
But others say deer shouldn’t be treated like farm animals. Rep. William Brisson, a Bladen County Democrat, said he thinks it’s wrong to raise deer in captivity for hunting purposes.
“I don’t see any more sportsmanship in it than walking out grandma’s back door and shooting the milk cow,” he said.
And Rep. Jay Adams, a Hickory Republican, said a number of hunting groups oppose the bill. “We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of hunters in North Carolina,” he said. “There are five, maybe six commercial deer farms.”
While some legislators said more deer farming could increase the chances of chronic wasting disease in North Carolina, Republican Sen. Brent Jackson of Sampson County dismissed those concerns.
“(Wildlife resources officers) will still be able to assist the growers in making sure the right thing is done to prevent any contamination,” he said. “Partnering with agriculture will mean we get better control.”