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Deer farmers could face more requirements to safeguard against chronic wasting disease

In a continuing effort to eradicate and control the spread of chronic wasting disease, Minnesota deer farmers could be forced to test their entire herd.

Sponsored by Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL-International Falls), HF2814 would require owners of farmed white-tailed deer to test their animals for the disease by October. Additional testing would be required for animals who test positive for chronic wasting disease.

The bill includes a $250,000 appropriation to the Board of Animal Health for the testing and would establish a requirement for a soil test before sale or transfer of land where the disease was detected while farming cervids, including deer, moose and elk.

Following a 9-3 vote by the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee Monday, the bill was sent to the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee without recommendation, in part, due to questions surrounding the testing used for the deer and soil.

The real-time quaking-induced conversion test has not been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Approval is expected in the near future,” Ecklund said. “We go to great lengths and take all precautions in protecting our meat and food supply. The RTQuIC test is one more tool that we have available to protect the industry.”

Several Republicans felt the bill was being considered too early given the test hasn’t been approved by the USDA.

Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck) said that the bill was originally going to be laid over before a late addition recommended it be moved on. Because of the time, Anderson said members didn’t feel an urgency in putting amendments forward.

“Given what we’ve heard today, we do need to slow down,” said Rep. John Burkel (R-Badger).

Ecklund said there’s approximately 3,500 captive white-tailed deer in the state.

“If we do find any problems through the use of this technology, then we would know the areas in the state that need the most attention,” he said.

The companion, SF3037, is sponsored by Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville) and awaiting action by the Senate Agriculture and Rural Development Finance and Policy Committee.

“We’ve been fighting CWD for five years,” Ecklund said. “I’d like to get to the bottom of what’s going on here.”

He later added: “If we had something in our swine population, if we had something in our turkey population, if we had something in our cattle population, it would be all hands on deck to make sure that we were addressing this.”

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