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Judge halts portions of meat law, says enforcement would be legislature ‘usurping’ constitutional authority


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A circuit court judge has halted a change in Missouri’s meat law that would have allowed for the sale of white-tailed deer meat and mule deer meat.

On Friday, Cole County Judge Jon Beetem noted that enforcement of some provisions within the omnibus agricultural bill passed in 2018 “would amount to the Missouri legislature usurping the Conservation Commission’s constitutional authority.”

The measure under scrutiny is Senate Bill 627 which was passed by the Missouri General Assembly on May 17, 2018, and signed by then-Gov. Eric Greitens on June 1, 2018. In light of the lawsuit, Beetem temporarily stopped the challenged portions from going into effect while the court challenge was in ongoing.

The Conservation Commission and Sara Pauley, director of the Missouri Department of Conservation, filed in August a lawsuit in Cole County Circuit Court against Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Chris Chinn in an attempt to stop the law.

The group only took issue with a portion — four specific statutory changes — of the overarching agricultural bill. The contested changes made by SB 627 amends certain definitions in the “Meat Inspection” statutes to include “captive cervids” alongside livestock and poultry.

Beetem found in his judgment that these changes are contrary to the Missouri Constitution and the Conservation Commission’s authority granted therein, especially relating to the sale of white-tailed deer meat and mule deer meat.

“There is a direct conflict between the Conservation Commission’s regulations prohibiting commercial sale and the Legislature’s statute allowing commercial sale,” wrote Beetem. “It is in the public interest to ensure that the Missouri Constitution is upheld and laws enacted are not inconsistent with it; thus, an injunction is consistent with public policy.”

He noted the ruling only applies to the specific sections that would allow for the sale of deer meat. All other changes made in SB 627 are not enjoined or restrained under the ruling.

“Enforcement of Sections 265.300(4), (7), (8), and (13) of the Missouri Revised Statutes as recently amended by Senate Bill 627 passed by the Missouri General Assembly and signed by the Governor would violate the Missouri Constitution by infringing upon Plaintiffs’ constitutionally-granted authority to regulate the game and wildlife resources of the State as provided by Mo. Const. Art. IV, Section 40(a),” the ruling states.

Read the full judgment below:

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