Skip to content

Disease is Akin to ‘Mad Cow’ In Deer

PA Deer and Elk Farms Pump $40M Into PA Economy Annually

Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) urged the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take smart steps to implement a new rule that could help states battle Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) among deer. The occurrence of the disease, which is akin to Mad Cow disease among deer, has concerned many across the state. Annually, Pennsylvania deer and elk farms pump $40 million into the state’s economy.

“Hunting is an important part of our state’s heritage and economy. It’s critical that USDA do all it can to protect Pennsylvania’s deer from Chronic Wasting Disease,” Senator Casey said. “Responsibly implementing this new rule will help states and the federal government better coordinate their activities to help prevent future CWD outbreaks in Pennsylvania and across the country.”

In October, two Pennsylvania deer were diagnosed with CWD. The disease, which is like Mad Cow because it is a form of “Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy,” has created confusion and concern during this hunting season. Currently, USDA is considering a rule that would increase coordination between states and the federal government on outbreaks of CWD. Specifically the rule establishes a voluntary national program in which deer farmers comply with certain protective measures to certify their herds as CWD-free.

The full text of Casey’s letter to Secretary Vilsack is below:


December 3, 2012

The Honorable Tom Vilsack


U.S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

As Pennsylvania hunters are heading into the woods during this deer hunting season, I am writing with my concerns about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). This past October, deer at a commercial farm in Pennsylvania tested positive for CWD, the first known cases in the Commonwealth. As you know, CWD is a fatal, degenerative neurological disease of deer and elk, for which there is no known treatment or vaccine.

Preventing an outbreak in captive and wild herds is very important to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I urge USDA to continue CWD surveillance in farmed and captive deer and elk. I ask that USDA reasonably implement the current interim final rule for the CWD Herd Certification Program as well as the interstate movement requirements, effective on December 10th. I further request that USDA carefully consider Pennsylvania’s position in issuing a final rule. Protecting the captive herd will ensure the health and security of both our captive and wild populations of deer.

I urge USDA to continue its vigilant monitoring of deer that might have encountered diseased deer, particularly deer whose whereabouts are unknown. USDA must also continue to follow its CWD management plan and work with Pennsylvania to contain the disease. I commend USDA for responding to the initial report this October and assisting Pennsylvania in depopulating the affected herd. I hope this early response is indicative of future collaboration.

In addition to their importance to the Commonwealth’s ecosystem, deer and elk are important to Pennsylvania’s economy. For example, Pennsylvania ranks second among States for annual deer and elk farm sales, totaling $40 million per year. Deer and elk hunting also has a substantial effect on the State’s economy. CWD threatens the deer and elk species as well as the sustainability of these industries. It is imperative that Federal, State and local officials continue to work together to address this alarming disease.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to continue working with you.


Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

cc: The Honorable Ken Salazar, Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior

Related Issues

  1. Agriculture
  2. Jobs & Economy