Bipartisan Legislation Would Empower State & Tribal Governments to Address & Prevent CWD Outbreaks

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today announced her support for bipartisan legislation to increase both research and management of chronic wasting disease (CWD), which has been identified in Mississippi and has the potential to negatively affect recreational hunting, outdoor tourism, local businesses, farms, and ecosystems.

Hyde-Smith joined U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) in offering the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act (S.4111).  The bill would authorize a five-year CWD research and management program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The work would be carried out through USDA cooperative agreements with state and tribal wildlife agencies, and state agriculture departments. 

“The spread of chronic wasting disease, which has a presence in Mississippi, is a major cause for concern.  We must dedicate more resources to understanding all we can about the cause, spread, management and control of this always-fatal disease,” Hyde-Smith said.  “I am pleased to support Senator Hoeven’s legislation to give the USDA more resources to focus on this problem.”

“CWD is a growing threat to both wildlife and livestock, impacting sportsmen, ranchers and the local ecology of regions across the U.S.,” said Hoeven.  “Our legislation would empower state and tribal governments to better manage and prevent outbreaks of this deadly disease, while also advancing new methods for detecting CWD and limiting its spread.”

CWD is a neurological disorder, similar to “mad cow disease,” which is contagious within each species and always fatal.  As of 2021, CWD has been discovered among deer, elk, and moose (cervids) in 26 states, including Mississippi.  

Mississippi has an estimated, and well-managed, population of 1.75 million whitetail deer.  Deer hunting represents the largest segment of the outdoor/hunting industry in the state and helps fund the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.

S.4111 would authorize funds for the following priorities:
•   Methods to effectively detect CWD in live cervids and the environment.
•   Testing methods for non-live cervids.
•   Genetic resistance to CWD.
•   Sustainable cervid harvest management practices to reduce CWD occurrence.
•   Factors contributing to local emergence of CWD.
•   Areas with the highest incidence of CWD.
•   Jurisdictions demonstrating the greatest financial commitment to managing, monitoring, surveying, and researching chronic CWD.
•   Efforts to develop comprehensive CWD management policies and programs.
•   Areas showing the greatest risk of an initial occurrence of CWD.
•   Areas responding to new outbreaks of CWD.

The measure would also authorize USDA and state and tribal agencies to develop educational materials to inform the public on CWD and directs USDA to review its herd certification program within 18 months.

Both Hyde-Smith and Hoven serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.

In addition to Hyde-Smith, additional original cosponsors include Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kan.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

The Mississippi State University Deer Ecology and Management Laboratory and Mississippi Wildlife Federation support S.4111.  Other groups endorsing the legislation include:  Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, National Wildlife Federation, Boone & Crockett, National Deer Association, North American Deer Farmers Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the Mule Deer Foundation.