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Missouri lawmaker seeks to expand MDC meat donation program — while changing how it’s funded

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Missouri lawmaker said he’s attempting to expand a Conservation Department program that provides venison to those in need while simultaneously changing just how it’s funded. 

The Share the Harvest Program, operated under the Missouri Conservation Department’s (MDC) umbrella, allows hunters to donate deer meat to food pantries across the state. But the program is done in conjunction with the Conservation Federation of Missouri, a private organization state Rep. Robert Ross said actively lobbies against his constituents’ interests. 

State Rep. Robert Ross

Ross proposed an amendment to this year’s appropriations bill that would only allocate $1 from the Conservation Commission Fund to the Conservation Federation of Missouri. 

As it stands now, the MDC has provided about $160,000 both in fiscal years 2018 and 2019 to the federation for its help with the Share the Harvest program. Along with other partners, the federation reimburses processors who process an entire deer donated by hunters. Hunters’ bills are reduced by the set amount, and processors send vouchers to the Conservation Federation of Missouri for reimbursement. 

But only a portion of that money allocated by MDC to the federation actually goes toward Share the Harvest, Ross said. 

Contrary to recent news reports, Ross maintains he approves of the Share the Harvest program — and even wants to see it expand to include the “thousands of pounds of nutritious meat” from the feral hogs MDC traps and kills. The purpose of his amendment is to fund the program outside of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, he said. 

“I support the Share the Harvest program. I just think it should be run directly from the [conservation] department and not set up to be run by a disconnected non-profit that is actually in the business of political activism,” Ross, a Republican, told The Missouri Times. 

“I can personally guarantee that both ‘Share the Harvest’ and ‘Operation Game Thief’ will be funded in this year’s budget; but I will always fight against government corruption and the misuse of our tax dollars, and MDC sending our tax dollars through a liberal front group (Conservation Federation of Missouri) which is controlled, manipulated, and utilized for political activism by MDC, is the wrong way to fund these programs.” 

The Share the Harvest program began in 1992 and has provided more than 4.3 million pounds of venison for hungry Missourians, MDC said last month. Hunters donated nearly 350,000 pounds of venison, including nearly 7,000 whole deer, during this past deer season. 

The full statement from Ross is below: 

Recently, a #FakeNews article was written by Wes Johnson of the Springfield News Leader (which has subsequently been shared by other news outlets), claiming that “State Lawmaker Seeks to Erase MDC’s Share The Harvest Funding.”  While the headline and article fall somewhere between outright lies and journalistic malpractice, it’s time to set the record straight.  

To be clear, I 100% support “Share The Harvest.”  Furthermore, I really believe it should be expanded to include all of the feral hogs that MDC traps, kills, and then leaves rotting on our beautiful landscape.  Thousands of pounds of nutritious meat are wasted annually by the MDC, in addition to the practice being illegal (but they don’t believe that the rules apply to them….) while jeopardizing our biological and environmental safety.  

The amendment made in the Appropriations Sub-Committee for Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources was made for two reasons:  Accountability and Exposure, and thus far it has been a resounding success in accomplishing both.  Unfortunately, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) misuses our tax dollars in multiple ways.  The Director (Sarah Parker-Pauley) and her team of 3 taxpayer funded lobbyists (one of which is Aaron Jeffries, mentioned in the #FakeNews article) spend their days and our dollars walking the halls of the Capitol, testifying against any measure which would bring accountability to the department or empower the citizens of Missouri.  In addition, MDC also sends our tax dollars to their political front group, the Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM), in a scheme to hire additional contracted lobbyists and generate additional opposition to any measure they disagree with……all with our tax dollars!  On the day prior to this amendment being made, CFM Executive Director Tyler Schwartze lied in his testimony before a House Committee (under the penalty of perjury) that CFM didn’t receive any money from MDC.  In the last two years alone, MDC has sent roughly $300,000 to CFM!  

The amendment made in the Appropriations Committee reads exactly and completely as follows:

“For the Conservation Federation of Missouri

  From Conservation Commission Fund (0609)…………………………………………$1”

I can personally guarantee that both “Share the Harvest” and “Operation Game Thief” will be funded in this year’s budget; but I will ALWAYS fight against government corruption and the misuse of our tax dollars, and MDC sending our tax dollars through a liberal front group (Conservation Federation of Missouri) which is controlled, manipulated, and utilized for political activism by MDC, is the wrong way to fund these programs.