SEPTEMBER 21, 2014
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Expanding feral hog processing opportunities in Georgia

One behalf of the conservation groups listed below and the sportsmen and women of Georgia, we write to ask for greater latitude among sportsmen in reducing a feral hog to processed pork.

Feral hogs occupy a legal twilight zone. One one hand, they are not wildlife (not owned by the state). They are presumed to be the property of the owner of the land on which the hog is located at the time. As such, as the hog travels, ownership changes.

Though not wildlife, they are sort of regulated by WRD under hunting regulations. Hogs are legally hunted under regulations on both state and federal land, for instance.

There are more feral hogs in Georgia than there are domestic hogs, according to Georgia Dept. of Ag. officials. These feral hogs represent a threat to our hog industry because feral swine attempt to break in to domestic hog operations. Such an event could introduce disease into the domestic herd and cause a financial hardship on that producer, but more importantly, could threaten the certification that Georgia hogs are disease free. Loss of this certification would stop exportation of Georgia hogs to out-of-state slaughter houses.

These hogs are also a plague on Georgia's wildlife as they destroy habitat and out-compete indigenous wildlife populations for food. Recognition of this hog plague has prompted WRD to allow hunting of hogs over bait. WRD wants more dead hogs.

Sportsmen do not like to waste animals they take when hunting. To do so is unethical. However, many sportsmen today lack the facilities to process their own large animal, like deer or hogs. These sportsmen rely on commercial processors.

There are a narrow variety of processors in Georgia that will deal with the public. These can be divided into two groups. Those that are inspected by the federal or state inspectors and those who are authorized to process only wildlife and are not inspected. There are fewer than 70 of the inspected variety statewide. There are more than 300 so-called deer processors statewide.

Deer processors are permitted by DNR. They are not allowed to sell anything they process. They are permitted to charge a hunter for processing an animal the hunter has reduced to private ownership. The deer processor is only allowed to offer a service to a successful deer hunter, not a product for sale.

However, that deer processor is not permitted to offer that same service to the same hunter, if the animal legally harvested is a hog. Under Georgia law, the processor never takes legal ownership of a deer being processed, but is permitted to hold the deer on the processor's property during the time the service is being rendered. If this service for deer were to be outlawed, the deer harvest would decrease markedly and the effect on Georgia's wildlife and habitat would be sudden, harsh and very negative.

Sportsmen ask that Georgia recognize that the legal constraints on hog processing were designed for an era now past. Sportsmen ask that some method be devised that allows a sportsman to contract with a private individual for processing services for feral hogs. Such an updating of the law would enhance or economy, our environment and our safety.

Thank you for your attention and help in this effort.

Sincerely,
GONetwork

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