The6th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources was held on Wednesday, November 9, 2005, at 1:00 PM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Tom Jensen, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Tom Jensen, Co-Chair; Representatives Jim Gooch Jr, Co-Chair, and Thomas M McKee, Co-Chair; Senators David E Boswell, Ernie Harris, Robert J (Bob) Leeper, Vernie McGaha, Joey Pendleton, and Damon Thayer; Representatives Royce W Adams, Adrian K Arnold, James E Bruce, Dwight D Butler, James Carr, Mike Cherry, Hubert Collins, James R Comer Jr, W Milward Dedman Jr, C B Embry Jr, W Keith Hall, Jimmy Higdon, Charlie Hoffman, Charles E Meade, Reginald K Meeks, Brad Montell, Fred Nesler, Don R Pasley, Marie L Rader, Rick W Rand, Steven Rudy, Terry Shelton, Brandon D Smith, Jim Stewart III, Tommy Turner, Ken Upchurch, and Robin L Webb.
Guests: Dr. Jon Gasset, Jim Lane, and Dr. , Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources; Stan Cave, Governor's Office; Bob Rowland, Lou Ortega, and Jakie Holt, Kentucky Alternative Livestock Association; Dr. Thomas Cline, South Dakota State Veterinarian's Office; Clifford Shipley, North American Deer Farmers; Mike Ohlmann, Safari International; Mary Ann Baron, Green County Judge Executive; Wade Helm, KCC; David Ledford, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation; and Linda Magee, Republic Independent.
LRC Staff: Tanya Monsanto, Biff Baker, Lowell Atchley, Carl Frazier, and Kelly Blevins.
Sen. Jensen asked for a motion to approved the minutes from the October meeting. The minutes were approved. Then Sen. Jensen recognized Rep. Comer for the introduction of guests.
Sen. Thayer gave the report of the Horse Farming Subcommittee. He stated that the subcommittee received testimony on the impact of animal identification and premises identification on horse farmers. After a motion and a second the Horse Farming Subcommittee report was approved by voice vote.
Sen. McGaha gave the report of the Rural Issues Subcommittee. He stated that the subcommittee received testimony on the Department of Agriculture's pesticide spraying program and the control of the West Nile Virus in Kentucky. After a motion and a second, the Rural Issues Subcommittee report was approved by voice vote.
Then, Sen. Harris gave the report of the Natural Resources Subcommittee. He stated that the subcommittee received legislative proposals from the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet and testimony regarding the Kentucky Conservation Initiative. After a motion and a second, the Natural Resources Subcommittee report was approved by voice vote.
Sen. Jensen explained that many people had signed up to give testimony, and the agenda items may be taken up out of order. He explained cervid ranching issue is complex and that the committee role would be fact finding in nature. There is an executive order in place that regulates cervid ranching to control the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD). However, there are many citizens who raise and breed cervids and have made sizable investments in this industry. The question is whether raising cervids poses a disease risk to the wildlife.
Sen. Jensen then introduced Dr. Jon Gassett, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR). Commissioner Gassett described CWD as a neurological disease that affects cervids. It is caused by prions and are transferred by direct and indirect contact. The Commissioner then discussed the early cases of CWD in the United States and the disease spread across the nation. The Commissioner also discussed the role of captive cervid facilities in disease spread. Dr. Gassett expressed frustration with widespread noncompliance with current captive cervid regulations and that weakening the regulations would make it more difficult to prevent disease spread. He then discussed the impact that CWD could have on the hunting industry in Kentucky. Finally, Commissioner Gassett provided information on several items of disinformation which he described as "myths."
Sen. Jensen asked if CWD harms humans and does confinement cause the disease. Commissioner Gassett said that it is unknown whether CWD could harm humans and that CWD is density dependent. That means that density of animals in an enclosure is a contributing factor but not the cause itself.
Sen. Boswell asked if KDFWR works with other agencies like the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) for monitoring CWD. Commissioner Gassett stated that KDFWR does work with KDA on monitoring, but KDFWR has a larger enforcement division.
Rep. Pasley asked about CWD precautions taken in Illinois, W. Virginia and New York. Why didn't their precautions stop CWD in their states? Commissioner Gassett stated that in 2001 there weren't many restrictions over transport and holding of cervids. W. Virginia and New York had strong regulations, but weakened those regulations in 2002. Then those states acquired CWD.
Sen. Pendleton asked whether the incidence of CWD in W. Virginia was due to wild deer rather than captive deer. Commissioner Gassett replied that sampling is voluntary for wild deer, so there is no way to be certain about the amount of CWD in wild versus captive herds.
Sen. Jensen asked if CWD has ever been found in Kentucky's captive facilities. Commissioner Gassett replied no.
Rep. Comer asked how CWD is spread. Commissioner Gassett stated that CWD is spread through direct and indirect contact of deer both in wild and in captivity. Urine, fecal matter, and decaying animals are the source of the prions.
Rep. Comer asked how many deer died in CWD infected states. Is there widespread attritions of herd size? Commissioner Gassett stated that he did not know. In states like Colorado and Wyoming the animal reductions are significant.
Rep. Comer asked if CWD impacts cattle or other livestock. Commissioner Gassett stated no, not naturally. Horses and swine have not been tested.
Rep. Hall asked about the impact of CWD infected animals on humans. Dr. Karen Alexi responded that there has never been a direct case associated with CWD. Rep. Hall asked if the deer will infect Elk. Dr. Alexi responded that it is unclear whether deer infects Elk or vise versa. There are numerous studies where they try to infect other animals. Commissioner Gassett added that there is evidence that CWD can jump across species.
Rep. Carr asked if it is possible that the deer population would be eliminated by CWD and to demonstrate how these reductions impacted hunters. Commissioner Gassett stated that in Wisconsin, depopulation of deer occurred and the depopulation along with generalized fear of CWD resulted in a 10 percent decline in hunting in Wisconsin.
Rep. Carr asked if the depopulation was due to agency actions or to the disease itself. Commissioner Gassett replied that it was the result of an agency measures to lower populations of the specie to control spread of the disease.
Rep. Webb asked what portion of the budget is for CWD monitoring and what type of funds are needed if CWD is found in Kentucky. Commissioner Gassett stated that currently two staff are dedicated to surveillance, but if CWD is discovered that as much as 50 percent of the wildlife division would be needed for response and clean-up.
Then, Mr. Stan Cave addressed the committee on behalf of the Governor's Office. He was joined by Acting Commerce Secretary Derek Ramsey and Mr. Andrew McNeil. Mr. Cave stated that the Fletcher administration intends to maintain the status quo in regard to the executive order. The administration is open to discussion, particularly as science and understanding of CWD evolves.
Sen. Jensen thanked the speakers and invited Mr. Bob Rowland and Mr. Lou Ortega with the Kentucky Alternative Livestock Association (KALA) and Dr. Thomas Cline, Assistant State Veterinarian in South Dakota to testify. Dr. Cline discussed CWD management in South Dakota.
According to Dr. Cline, S. Dakota adopted a disease management approach. The Animal Industry Board works with the Department of Game, Fish and Parks. There is concurrent authority to control CWD. S. Dakota adopted "reasonable" rules to promote free enterprise for the downstream products from cervid ranching. Then, Dr. Cline discussed disease surveillance and reporting in S. Dakota.
Sen. Jensen asked if deer and elk are prevalent in the wild. Dr. Cline said yes. Our herds were not decimated even though we are in a CWD endemic area. We provide information to the public on how to sample, inspect, and consume meat.
Sen. Jensen asked if there is a live test for CWD. Dr. Cline remarked that the only live test is in a research population. Practically speaking, the animal must be killed.
Sen. Jensen asked if there is evidence that confinement is the cause of CWD. Dr. Cline responded that the less space available then the probability increases for transmission. The disease is density dependent.
Rep. Rudy asked if regulations in S. Dakota have harmed industry. Dr. Cline stated that there are very few permitted facilities in S. Dakota. Business remains viable, but it isn't booming.
Rep. Webb asked if there are regulations on facilities for size and fencing. Dr. Cline stated there are no requirements on fencing. The humane animals laws in S. Dakota will cause inspection and regulation of the facility.
Rep. Webb asked what the total acreage is of a permitted area. Dr. Cline responded that he did not know. Rep. Webb asked what is the cost to hunters in permitted facilities. Dr. Cline responded approximately $2,000-$2,500 for cows; large bucks can bring as much as 20 thousand dollars.
Rep. Pasley asked how animals are identified on a ranch. Dr. Cline stated that there is a USDA electronic identification tag. All cervids are tested for various diseases and animals are tested every two years.
Rep. Pasley asked if Kentucky should have a containment or a deterrent strategy to CWD.
Rep. Comer remarked that he had visited Mr. Ortega's facility in Cumberland County and that cervid ranching is a good alternative to tobacco farming. Then, Mr. Jakie Holt remarked that he has a ranch with one of the largest herds in Kentucky. He explained the permitting process for his facility and stated that cervid ranchers in Kentucky are not in noncompliance.
Rep. Adams asked Mr. Holt is he is one of the ranchers with permitted facilities. Mr. Holt stated that his facility is the second largest of 83 facilities which have permits.
Sen. Leeper asked who Dr. Cline represented. Mr. Holt stated that Dr. Cline is with the State Veterinarian's Office in South Dakota.
Then, representatives from the Department of Agriculture spoke. Dr. Stout, State Veterinarian, stated in CWD there is a human, livestock, wildlife connection, and his goal was to keep livestock safe with minimum regulation. There are 79 enrolled cervid herds in Kentucky. Dr. Stout then discussed the CWD monitoring program and a USDA proposal for handling CWD. There have been issues of noncompliance and communication problems.
Sen. Jensen asked about the duration from disease from onset to death. Dr. Stout stated it is slow, ranging from months to years.
Sen. Jensen asked if cervid ranching expands, can KDA identify symptoms of CWD in herds. Dr. Stout stated yes. If an animal shows signs, then the animal must be reported and killed.
Sen. Jensen asked if CWD is transmissible and is it more likely to be transmitted in a confined area than in the wild. Dr. Stout stated yes it is transmissible. The smaller the space, the greater the likelihood of disease transmission. That is true of any specie of animal.
Sen. Jensen asked if there is evidence of herd decimation due to CWD. Dr. Stout stated that he did not know. Sen. Jensen asked if there is enough agreement between industry and regulators to allow the industry to develop while controlling risk. Dr. Stout replied that there is common ground in S. Dakota and it is a good model. Sen. Jensen asked KDA to work with KDFWR to get a workable program in place.
Sen. Pendleton asked whether cervid ranchers could purchase additional animals for their facilities. Dr. Stout replied that yes, cervid ranchers can buy animals in-state, but they cannot purchase from outside the state. Dr. Stout added it is not unreasonable.
Rep. Webb asked KDA if they expect mandatory federal action. Dr. Stout stated no.
Then, Sen. Jensen opened the meeting to public comment. Several groups gave comments. Mr. Clifford Shipley with the North American Deer Farmers Association stated that their organization does not want Kentucky to over react to the perceived threats of CWD. Mr. Mike Ohlmann with the Kentucky Chapter of Safari Club International stated their organization supports hunting freedom and is against any anti hunting initiatives. They support high fenced hunting. David Ledford with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation stated that their organization supports the current executive order which prohibits new facilities, shooting preserves, or expansion of either; controls on the transportation of cervids; and strict controls on monitoring for disease.
After a motion and a second, the meeting adjourned.