Sportsmen asking state for funds to partner with farmers, food banks

Additional state funding could reduce deer depredation for Michigan farmers while increasing meat processing capacity.

Dan Ulfig with the National Deer Association recently testified during a Michigan Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing about the need for the Department of Natural Resources to fund the Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger program.

“We have a crisis here in Michigan and it’s primarily antlerless deer and it’s particularly the southern Lower Peninsula,” he says. “We have an overabundance of deer. It’s causing lots of problems.”

Last fall, the DNR started requiring donated animals to be tested for bovine tuberculosis, chronic wasting disease, and lead.

Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger’s Dean Hall says there’s now more venison being donated than they can process with about a third of their partners no longer compliant.

Ulfig says offsetting processing costs and partnering with farmers could address several issues.

“Fourteen thousand crop damage permits were issued in the state of Michigan last year, only 7,000 were used,” he says. “Why? The reason being, one of the prime times to harvest antlerless deer is in the spring and summer when it’s warm out. However, many farmers are hesitant to do that because the meat’s going to spoil.”

Ulfig says $300,000 could help the organization purchase refrigerated trailers to assist processors during the off-season and farmers affected by crop damage.

State Representative and House Appropriations Committee member Cam Cavitt recently announced he plans to find general funding for the program.

The Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger Fund was created in 2005 by the state’s legislature and is solely run by volunteers and donations.

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