Walz signals support for Ecklund’s measure to strengthen deer farm oversight

In a letter to House and Senate Environment and Agriculture committee chairs, Governor Tim Walz announced his support of a proposal to transfer state oversight of cervid farms from the Board of Animal Health (BAH) to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The move is one of many steps lawmakers are considering to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Minnesota’s wild white-tailed deer population.
State Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL – International Falls), chief author of a comprehensive package of legislation to address CWD spread in Minnesota, is still advocating to incorporate the solution into a final Environment and Natural Resources budget package.
“The threat of CWD to our wild deer herd is dire and the current mechanisms to prevent it from spreading from farmed Cervidae are proving to be inadequate. As we see CWD pop up in new spots, with many of the locations linked directly to deer farms, Minnesota leaders have an urgent responsibility to take a new approach,” Rep. Ecklund said.
“I thank Governor Walz for supporting our plan to move oversight of deer farms to the DNR, one step of many I’m working on to keep our wild white-tail deer population healthy. As we continue work to wrap up a state budget, I’m hopeful we can come to an agreement on this and other proposals to protect Minnesota’s cherished hunting traditions.”
The House approved Rep. Ecklund’s comprehensive CWD prevention plan as part of its Environment and Natural Resources budget bill in April.
The legislation would also require deer farms to immediately notify the DNR of an escaped animal if the animal is not returned or captured within 24 hours and requires identification of farmed white-tailed deer to include certain contact information of the owner.
It allows a licensed hunter to kill and possess an escaped farmed Cervidae without being liable to the owner for the loss of the animal and requires farmed Cervidae killed by a hunter or the DNR to be tested for CWD at the owner’s expense. Rep. Ecklund’s legislation also expands a provision in current law prohibiting the importation of Cervidae carcasses.
In May, the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Center for Prion Research and Outreach (MNPRO) announced a survey of a dumping site in Beltrami County – used by a nearby former deer farm to discard white-tailed deer carcasses – resulted in a positive test of CWD in at least one carcass.
The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources – of which Rep. Ecklund is a member – approved emergency funding for the environmental assessment of the site.