“Without people like me, hunter attendance will decline,” Park Rapids’ Kevin George told lawmakers in March during hearings to repeal the law. “I have a lot of people who hunt in this area. You stay with Super 8 or AmericInn. Well, you can’t boning your deer in the parking lot. Nobody will want that. ”
His customers also include elderly and disabled hunters, as well as those who lack the skills or desire to process their own deer. It also serves people from other states who must bone their deer before they cross state lines to prevent the spread of chronically wasted diseases.
The law, which went into effect in 2020, requires Minnesota’s “garage workers” to obtain a license from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for the first time. While the license itself was relatively inexpensive, the process of licensing meant installing hot and cold running water when you didn’t have it, as well as a sink for hand washing, non-porous walls, floors and ceilings, and a commercial cooler.
When he arrived on Monday, Koochiching County game processor Bob Christianson said a state inspector had told him he would also need to add a separate sewer for his wildlife store, and he estimated it would cost him $ 70,000 to $ 100,000 to to meet government requirements. He doesn’t consider himself a “garage man” as he has a separate shop and some high-end equipment. But he’s just as affected by the new law as his seasonal work doesn’t generate enough income to cover the cost of complying with government regulations.
“I would be done with this a long time ago if I wasn’t needed,” said Christianson. “It’s a lot of work.”
The crackdown came at a time when meat cabinets were increasingly refusing to process whole game carcasses due to stricter regulations and fears a COVID-19 outbreak could shut them down and leave them with spoiled game.
Inspectors planned to use 2020 as a year to locate and train garage processors, and this year to enforce the law.
The proposal to repeal this law would exempt seasonal game processors who work less than 90 days a year from the tax.
Some game processors, like George, only work during the rifle season while others also take game carcasses during the bow and muzzle loading season. George said the seasonal nature of the work doesn’t make enough money to justify the cost of a license. If the law is not repealed, he said, he will no longer do it.
The garage folks have a few allies including Senator Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, chairman of the Senate committee who originally passed the bill, and Douglas County Commissioner Jerry Rapp who convinced Minnesota Rural Counties to embrace it as a problem.
“These garage processors do a great job for deer hunters in Minnesota,” said Rapp. “We’ve done our own game processing for as long as I can remember and I haven’t let anyone die yet.”
In a Senate hearing, Westrom sounded similar, arguing that he hadn’t heard the garage processors caused deaths. What they do, he said, is to skin and cut them up so that the hunters can then take the meat to a locker for processing into sausage or dried meat.
“Do we need to expand government to any area like this?” he said. “Let’s try going back to what was before and let the little garage wild game processor do game processing like it did before.”
Not everyone is in favor of a complete repeal of the law.
This includes some locker factories that need to be licensed and that garage workers consider unfair if exempted.
Brian Schatz, president of the Minnesota Association of Meat Processors, testified that he would support repealing the law as long as it only applies to those earning $ 15,000 a year or less, a change being discussed in a Minnesota House committee has been.
“The $ 15,000 limit is around 150 deer,” he said. “If you go beyond that, I think you should be under some kind of inspection. And that’s what our board of directors and our organization think too. ”
Lockers are increasingly opposed to Wild because they have cumbersome new rules that require them to document more of their work, he said.
The Walz government has also testified in favor of regulation.
Some processors are conscientious, said Nicole Neeser, director of the dairy and meat inspection division at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
“But that’s not generally the case across the state,” she said. “We see numerous complaints about wildlife operations throughout the year, especially in the fall.”
As the exemption progresses in the House and Senate committees, it will likely be incorporated into the larger agricultural collective act. The Minnesota House Agriculture and Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the collective bill on Wednesday, April 7th at 1:00 pm. If you want to testify, you should contact him nancy.[email protected] Tuesday, April 6th, 4 p.m. The hearing can be viewed at www.house.leg.state.mn.us/htv/schedule.asp.