Minnesota legislators have recently blamed Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) on the deer farming industry. However, when it comes to CWD, sportsmen and wildlife enthusiasts should be far more concerned with the wild deer population than with farm-raised deer.

Blaming CWD on deer farming is either dishonest or ignorant. Maryland, New Mexico, Virginia and Wyoming all have documented cases of CWD, yet none of these states have a farmed elk or deer industry. North Dakota and West Virginia have found CWD in the wild, while their farmed industry has tested thousands of animals, and all have been negative.

The truth is that farmed deer are tested, monitored and documented more heavily and frequently than wild deer, so it makes sense that, if the disease exists, we will find it more often where we test. But because we find it there doesn’t mean the disease is more prevalent there, it simply means our testing and management controls are better there. To reach any other conclusion is either lazy junk science or intentional misinformation.

Deer farming is one of the fastest growing industries in rural America, and the industry itself has worked closely with state and federal legislators for nearly 20 years to develop a national CWD rule and standard testing practices.

Another myth promoted by Minnesota’s legislators and media is that there is no live test for CWD. In actuality, there IS a live test. Deer farmers have helped to develop new live testing procedures for deer, however these are more practical with farm-raised deer and not one state agency has ever implemented these tests for its wild deer population.

The deer industry is nothing to fear, and whitetail deer, in particular offer a unique solution to some of the problems we face today. When you get past the propaganda and realize that raising deer can simultaneously educate and inspire our youth about the outdoors, give economic hope for family farmers, bring jobs to industry-starved rural communities and help preserve our American outdoor traditions, the deer industry should be welcomed by all sportsmen.

Shawn Schafer, Executive Director, North American Deer Farmers Association