A Winona, Minn.-area deer farmer whose business is being lost to chronic wasting disease criticized state government in a Facebook posting but said he'll go along with a taxpayer-funded plan to wipe out his herd.
Todd Miller, owner of Epic Antler Ranch and brother of Minnesota GOP Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, said on his Facebook page that CWD is "a money grab for the DNR, to get and waste millions of taxpayers dollars'' with no end game.
In his rant, Todd Miller said the always-fatal deer disease is prevalent in wild deer across southern Minnesota. "But being I'm a deer farmer with a positive test, and farm in MN, I have to kill them all. WHY because MN legislators made it a law, but other states don't do this.''
Miller described CWD as a "political disease'' and wrote, "PEOPLE NEED TO WAKE UP!!"
Under a 2019 law passed by the Legislature to combat the spread of CWD from farms to wild deer, private deer producers are required to "depopulate'' their herds if CWD is detected. Restocking is forbidden for five years and fencing must be maintained to keep wild deer away from sites where infected deer roamed.
Herd owners can be reimbursed by federal tax dollars distributed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Miller said in his Facebook posting that despite frustration and heartache, he is working with the state and USDA to "make this as smooth as possible.'' More than 127 deer are in his herd, a state official said.
Todd Miller did not respond to requests for comment. Rachel Aplikowski, a spokeswoman for Sen. Jeremy Miller, said the majority leader declined to comment on his brother's anti-government Facebook posting.
It's the second time in four months that the brothers are in the news over deer farming. In late April, Senate DFL Leader Melisa López Franzen raised conflict-of-interest concerns when Jeremy Miller played a role in overturning a bipartisan vote that nearly established a moratorium against new deer farms forming in the state.
Sen. Miller, she said, abruptly recessed the Senate after Sen. Karla Bigham, DFL-Cottage Grove, passed her moratorium language with bipartisan support. After the Republican majority met behind closed doors, they returned with an amendment that killed the moratorium. At the time, López Franzen released a statement saying that Jeremy Miller didn't disclose his family ties to deer farming and needed to explain "what interest he had in interrupting Senate proceedings on an important bill so that he could convince five members of his caucus to change their votes.''
Miller's spokeswoman said then and again on Monday that the senator has no financial ties to his brother's deer farming business. No formal ethics complaint was ever filed.
The state Board of Animal Health and the DNR together regulate deer farms. They suspected a CWD problem on Todd Miller's deer farm in 2020, quarantining his herd when CWD was confirmed in a Houston County deer that came from Miller's herd. The probe expanded in 2021 when another deer sourced from Miller's herd tested positive for CWD on a deer farm in Beltrami County.
Scores of deer that died on Miller's farm from fenced-in hunting or for other reasons were tested without detection of CWD. (CWD testing on live deer has not yet been approved.) But a positive test result was confirmed recently in tissue from a 4-year-old doe that had been culled. The finding and plan to kill Todd Miller's herd were announced Friday by the state.