Deer breeding bill falls short in Miss. Senate

Published 2:45 pm Thursday, January 27, 2011

A bill that would allow genetically enhanced deer on breeding farms in Mississippi failed to pass the Senate Tuesday, but a key committee chairman plans to bring the measure back up for more debate.

Senate Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committee Chairman Tommy Gollott, R-Biloxi, requested the bill be considered again after Tuesday’s 28-22 vote. The measure needed 30 votes, a three-fifths majority, to pass.

The bill would allow the import and export of farm-raised white tail deer, its semen, ova, and embryos. Farmers also could enclose the deer in pens and sell hunts, Gollott said.

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He said Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and Alabama already engage in this kind of buying, selling, and hunting of white tail deer. Gollott said the practice could brings millions to Mississippi while helping small farmers. He provided lawmakers with information showing the industry had a $137 million economic impact in Louisiana, where 355 such farms exist.

“This will help the farmer out there who’s going to lose his farmland. It does not cost the state of Mississippi one dime,” Gollott said during the debate. “We can have those small farmers come out of poverty, make money and educate their children.”

Gollott fielded several questions about whether it would require more state employee man-hours to regulate the industry and whether there’s the potential for disease from animals who are imported.

“None of these deer we bring into the state will have any chance of getting into the wild,” said Gollott, adding that the deer would have electronic tracking implants.

Sen. Gary Jackson, R-French Camp, said he voted against the bill because wildlife biologists oppose it.

The Mississippi Wildlife Federation is among the groups against the practice. Kathy Stropshire, director of the federation, said the practice would promote disease, particularly chronic wasting disease. She said the hunts within enclosed pens lack sportsmanship. She also said wildlife is a public trust managed by the state, and it should remain that way.

Tommy Snell, director of the Mississippi Deer Farmers Association, said he has 350 acres in Lauderdale County, but “we don’t have a source to stock our enclosures. We can’t buy and sell any deer. Deer are state-owned and cannot be sold,” said Snell, who watched Tuesday’s debate.

Snell, who favors the legislation, said the bill has been caught up in “election-year politics.” He said the bill “isn’t an attempt to capture wild deer and sell them. That’s a misconception.”

Snell also said there should be some clarification in the law because currently some deer in the state are being hunted in enclosed pens. Snell said the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks oversees the hunting of the white-tail deer.

“It’s a huge industry in other neighboring states, and Mississippi is extremely well-suited for deer hunting,” Snell said.

A similar bill is pending in a House committee.

The bills are Senate Bill 2530 and House Bill 927.