Grass Roots North Carolina / Forum For Firearms Education

Post Office Box 10665, Raleigh, NC  27605

877.282.0939 (Phone)      919.573.0354 (Fax)


Press Contact:     704.907.9206


Release date:      September 14, 2015

Bill Endangering Deer Hunting Could be Heard Tomorrow


Documents suggest retired Food Lion CEO Tom Smith, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler & others colluded to reverse previous NC Wildlife Resources Commission policy on ‘Chronic Wasting Disease’…


In late August, GRNC alerted legislators, hunters and taxpayers to a potential disaster as Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, in an apparent “pay to play” scheme with wealthy deer farmer (and former Food Lion CEO) Tom E. Smith and others, began pushing to expand commercial deer farming – a scheme which could spread “Chronic Wasting Disease” (CWD) from deer herds in other states, potentially decimating North Carolina’s indigenous deer population.


  • Smith, along with at least one other Food Lion CEO, has contributed heavily to the campaigns of both Troxler and bill sponsor Senator Brent Jackson.


  • At issue is Section 14 of Senate Bill 513, which would resume issuance of deer farming permits – stopped in 2004 to prevent transmission of “Mad Cow”-like CWD to indigenous deer. It also would transfer responsibility for “captive cervids” from NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) to the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (NCDA&CS).


  • Captive deer, which are shot in “canned” hunting preserves and bring in big money for their huge, genetically engineered antlers, have spread CWD to indigenous deer in 21 states and the Province of Alberta.


Below is an open letter from GRNC President Paul Valone to Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler containing links to all relevant documents demonstrating that NCWRC previously opposed deer farming, but has apparently been corrupted to support the scheme by Troxler, the NC Deer and Elk Farmers Association, or others.


Open Letter to Commissioner Steve Troxler


September 14, 2015


North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services

1001 Mail Service Center

Raleigh, NC 27699-1001


Attn: Commissioner Steve Troxler

Dear Commissioner Troxler:


Last month, Grass Roots North Carolina focused attention on Section 14 of Senate Bill 513 (“North Carolina Farm Act of 2015”), which would transfer control of deer farming to your Department of Agriculture while resuming issuance of new deer farming permits, which has been stopped since 2004. We pointed out that the financial motivation for deer farming was to genetically engineer deer with huge antlers for “canned” hunting preserves which are illegal in North Carolina but exist on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, where huge racks can command $14,000 and up.


Deer farming will bring Chronic Wasting Disease to NC


You no doubt recall our concerns that deer farming benefits a few wealthy landowners (coincidentally, chief among them your friend, deer farmer and large-dollar donor, former Food Lion CEO Tom E. Smith), while potentially decimating deer hunting in North Carolina due to almost certain introduction of Chronic Wasting Disease CWD) through deer shipped into the state.


As any honest person in this debate would admit, CWD is incurable, spreads even through the soil years after introduction, cannot be readily diagnosed, is typically transmitted through cattle transporters, and often fails to manifest symptoms for up to fifteen years. Introduced to deer populations by captive cervids in Colorado, in a few short decades CWD has become a scourge to twenty-one states plus the Canadian province of Alberta. It most recently threatens the deer population of Texas, where herds have tested positive for CWD despite more than nine years of isolation.


Stop parsing your words, Commissioner Troxler


In response to GRNC’s last alert, your office issued a press statement claiming, “Commissioner Troxler did not ask for Section 14 to be part of the farm act.” But ignoring, for a moment, that large contributions from former Food Lion CEO Smith (now the state’s biggest deer farmer) and another Food Lion CEO align closely with the hatching of the deer farming scheme, you certainly stood to defend the measure at a press conference featuring bill sponsor Senator Brent Jackson, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) Executive Director Gordon Myers, and you. So whether or not you hatched the scheme with your longtime friend, Sen. Jackson, and your other longtime friend, Mr. Smith, you have publicly supported the measure.


Will it really protect deer hunters, Commissioner?

That’s not what NCWRC says…


Your statement also says Section 14 of SB 513 will “enhance the ability of farms to flourish while protecting the wild deer population.” But that wasn’t the previous position of the NCWRC, was it? In fact, in 2004 and in response to “emergency legislation,” NCWRC not only stopped issuing captive cervid permits, but also spent $247,850 to buy out fifteen deer farmers and remove 328 captive deer.


In 2011, NCWRC issued a report entitled “Chronic Wasting Disease and the Holding of Deer in Captivity,” which featured the following damning conclusions (emphasis added):


  • CWD infected 49% of a mule deer herd in Wyoming in 2010, resulting in a 50% reduction in herd size.


  • “Food borne transmission of mad cow disease to humans indicates that the species barrier may not completely protect humans from animal prion diseases, potentially including CWD. Conversion of human prion protein by CWD-associated prions has been demonstrated in lab experiments.”


  • “Wisconsin spent approximately $25 million on CWD-related activities from 2002-2006. These direct expenditures do not include other broader economic impacts. Hunting license sales declined 10% in the first year after CWD was detected in Wisconsin.”


  • “Assuming a 10% reduction in deer hunters in North Carolina following detection of CWD (as was the case in Wisconsin), we estimate that NCWRC would lose approximately $976,820 annually in license sales if CWD was detected in North Carolina with additional impacts to federal assistance (i.e., Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration) funds as the number of certified license holders declines.”


  • “Assuming a 10% reduction in deer hunters in North Carolina following detection of CWD (as was the case in Wisconsin) and using the 2006 economic data, we estimate that detection of CWD in North Carolina would have multiple, negative economic impacts including: an $18.7 million dollar impact on retail sales to deer hunters, a $32 million impact on economic output, a $5 million impact to travel-related expenditures, a $2 million impact to state tax revenue, and the loss of 340 jobs.”


  • “…North Carolina hunters could lose an estimated $35-$54 million in recreational benefits annually.”


  • “CWD appears to have spread by jumping from state to state (see map below, USGS 2011) suggesting that the disease has been spread by human movement of animals or infectious materials.”


  • “Results of current modeling efforts using data from deer herds in states with CWD are sobering.”


  • “These models generally show significant impacts to deer populations that may not occur until 25 to 50 years after they become infected and extinction of populations may occur in 100 years…”


In fact, after you and Smith hatched your scheme, NCWRC reversed its position and held public hearings in October of 2014 on resuming deer farming. The hearings produced 1,968 comments in opposition, versus only 8 in support.


When will you see the light, Commissioner Troxler?


What will it take for you to denounce this scheme to further enrich wealthy land-owners at the expense of deer hunters and North Carolina taxpayers? Would you like to hear about deer smuggling resulting from the huge financial incentives in other states which facilitate captive cervids?


I strongly urge you to publicly renounce your support for Section 14 of SB 513, a measure with the potential to destroy North Carolina’s deer hunting tradition and cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually.



F. Paul Valone

President, Grass Roots North CarolinaF. Paul Valone
President, Grass Roots North Carolina
Executive Director, Rights Watch International