According to the Maryland Farm Bureau, their members support Senate Bill 748, the Crop Damage Permit Bill (SB 748), because it allows farmers to better harvest the deer damaging their crops by allowing venison to be processed and sold commercially in Maryland. SB 748 was introduced by Sens. Thomas Middleton of Charles County, James Mathias, Jr. of the Eastern Shore, and Karen Montgomery of Montgomery County.
Currently, crop damage permits to kill deer outside of the regular hunting season are issued after an official from the Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service confirms that the animals have caused a certain amount of damage to a farmer’s crops.
SB 748 further authorizes farmers to process and market wild venison acquired through hunting with a crop damage permit. The Bill provides that the requirements for the processing, inspecting, labeling, and selling of venison must be established by regulation before October 1, 2016. Interestingly, SB 748 classifies deer killed via a crop damage permit as livestock under the Maryland Wholesome Meat Act (Maryland Code, Agriculture Article, Section 3-301, et seq.).
According to a February 17, 2015 article by Mike Sawyers in the Cumberland Times-News, the Maryland Hunting Coalition is opposed to SB 748. The Executive Director of the Coalition has stated that commercial hunting and the sale of wildlife is prohibited to ensure the sustainability of the wildlife population. The Allegany-Garrett Sportsmen’s Association echoes the views of the Maryland Hunting Coalition and has professed a fear that creating a market for a game species will lead to species elimination. The Association also has concerns over how the law would be enforced. In his article, Sawyers analogizes the effect of SB 748 on the deer population to what has happened to the overharvested striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay and fears that, if passed, the Bill will be poorly enforced and ultimately negatively impact the deer population.
To read SB 748 in its entirety, see: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2015RS/bills/sb/sb0748f.pdf. The Senate Hearing on SB 748 is scheduled for March 17, 2015 at 1:00 p.m.