Lawmakers in The Magnolia State have introduced an ambitious bill that seeks to solve two problems at once: manage the state’s burgeoning deer population and provide sustainable, nutritious food to inmates that will not break taxpayers’ wallets. House Bill 397, or the “Venison Harvesting Program for Inmate Consumption,” would allow correctional facilities to accept and process deer meat. Resident hunters will also be able to donate their harvests, either processed or not, directly to prisons.
“This would allow state, municipal, county and juvenile corrections institutions to use processed venison, under Department of Health guidelines,” House Corrections Committee Chairman Tommy Taylor (R-Boyle), who authored the bill, told The Clarion Ledger.
Lawmakers say that the bill came about as a response to Mississippi’s high deer population and liberal bag limit. Through charity programs run by the Mississippi Wildlife Federation and other nonprofit groups, hunters already donate thousands of pounds of venison each year to the needy. The deer meat is then distributed to local food pantries and churches by the Mississippi Food Network. If passed, House Bill 397 will provide another avenue for charitable hunters to donate their harvests.
On Wednesday, the House Corrections Committee unanimously passed the bill, which is now headed to the Public Health Committee. Lawmakers say they are working alongside the Mississippi Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, which will be consulting with correctional facilities if the measure is passed. It is not yet known if the commission will be making and regulatory changes for 2015’s deer hunt as a result of the bill.