To protect the crops we hold, deer (Editorial)

by | Feb 15, 2019

No matter where you travel in Mid-Atlantic farm country, deer eating crops is a problem.
By no means a new problem, low crop prices and repeated years of bad weather and bad yields add a greater sting to seeing acres upon acres of crops disappear into the woods on four prancing legs.
The frustration peaked last summer on the Lower Shore and a tri-county meeting was held for affected farmers coordinated by the Lower Shore county farm bureaus, Maryland Farm Bureau and Maryland Department of Natural Resources representatives.
Using DNR maps indicating state- and federal-owned lands, areas of extreme crop damage were identified.
The farmers organized a Doe Harvest Challenge for the end of the area’s deer season, putting up $10,000 in prize money to encourage the hunting of antlerless deer. Their goal was to get 300 deer. They got 364.
Also this past summer, farmers in Sussex County, Del., met with lawmakers and state officials to discuss possible solutions. By expanding the state’s crop damage permit program to include a “severe” and “extreme” category, farmers can have deer hunted basically year-round on the most damaged areas.
At the Delaware meeting, Rep. Richard Collins floated the idea of creating a crop damage insurance program as a way for the state to share the cost of the problem since the state manages the deer herd.
“If I had a herd of cows, and I said ‘I’m going to let my cows run on a farmer’s grounds and eat his crops’ I would be arrested. The deer are owned by the people of Delaware. In fact, that issue came up last night, who owns the deer? It is the State of Delaware, we, meaning all of us, are allowing our livestock, our deer, to eat on all of the farmers’ land. And I think if we’re going to do that we should help in the cost of that,” Rep. Collins said.
In a phone interview last week, Collins said he doesn’t view it as insurance anymore since the annual crop damage is a virtual certainty, but for some type of formula that would help alleviate some of the pain to take shape, the farmers have to unite and push for it. It could take three years or more of a continual effort.
“The farmers have gotten a lot done that way,” he said.
In Maryland, the Department of Natural Resources collaborated last summer to expand the state’s deer damage permid program.
Now, the DNRis seeking public comment on the state’s management of white-tailed deer. The input will be used to help revise the state’s deer management plan for the next 15 years, establishing long-term goals, and identifying specific objectives and strategies for achieving them. Two public meetings remain; Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, and Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. at New Town High School in Owings Mills.
DNR is also accepting feedback through Feb. 28 by phone at 410-260-8540; by fax at 410-260-8596; or in writing to: Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife and Heritage Service, 580 Taylor Ave., E-1, Annapolis, MD, 21401.
As both states go forward, balancing the needs of so many groups with different goals for the state’s deer herd will be difficult, especially with inevitable limitations in funding.
A united front from farmers all facing the same problem has shown to produce helpful measures of control, and it’s no time to back off the pressure.

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P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925

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