For the first time ever, Missouri's Share the Harvest program will have the capacity to process up to 10,000 deer this season and provide that venison to families in need, thanks to a partnership between Gov. Jay Nixon, the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Conservation Federation of Missouri, and local food banks. Last year, Missouri hunters donated 4,200 full deer to Share the Harvest.
Because of this expansion, contributing a deer will be easier and cheaper than ever. For each whole deer contributed this season, the Conservation Federation will reimburse local processors $60, directly reducing the processing cost for the hunter. That is a significant increase over the $40 reimbursement offered last year. In many cases, local charities also will cover the balance of the processing cost.
"Hunting is a time-honored tradition for families across Missouri, and sharing the harvest with those in need is an important part of that tradition," said Gov. Nixon, who once again will hunt in Clark County, Mo., on the opening weekend of firearms deer season. "This season, I encourage Missouri hunters to join us in continuing this legacy of generosity by providing a healthy source of protein to needy families. From a few pounds to an entire deer, any amount of venison donated to Share the Harvest helps feed people right here in Missouri. By participating in Share the Harvest, hunters can fight hunger and foster hope for thousands of Missouri families."
Gov. Nixon made this announcement today at the Farmers' Cooperative in St. Peters. Founded in 1916, the 600-member cooperative has sold seed, fuel and supplies to generations of farmers and landowners in St. Charles County and the surrounding region. In recent years, the cooperative's sales of specialty wildlife seeds, such as seeds for clover, grasses and turnips, to sportsmen and landowners have skyrocketed. Landowners use these seeds to attract deer and other game to their property for hunting purposes.
"For businesses like the Farmers' Cooperative, hunting is a major component of Missouri's economy, as well as a part of our special heritage," Gov. Nixon said. "This year, we want to remind all those who are a part of this legacy to give back to our communities through Share the Harvest."
Now in its 19th season, the capacity of Share the Harvest will grow dramatically this year because of two new funding sources secured by Gov. Nixon. Last year, Gov. Nixon's administration awarded the Conservation Federation of Missouri more than $277,000 in Neighborhood Assistance Program tax credits. Over three years, these credits will help the Conservation Federation secure private contributions to expand the number of meat processors who participate in Share the Harvest; the number of deer contributed by hunters; and the pounds of venison distributed. The Conservation Federation administers Share the Harvest in partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Earlier this year, Gov. Nixon's administration and the Missouri Association of Food Banks also provided an additional $350,000 to expand the capacity of Share the Harvest.
"Share the Harvest has expanded significantly over the past 19 seasons, but this season, we're posed for more growth than ever," said Dave Murphy, executive director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri. "Missouri hunters have a proud legacy of giving back to our communities, and Share the Harvest has always been one of our primary ways of doing that. Thanks to Gov. Nixon's leadership and the support of our private sponsors, we will dramatically increase the impact of Share the Harvest this season and in the years to come. It's time for Missouri hunters to stand together once again and fill our food banks with healthy, nutritious venison."
Share the Harvest subsidizes the cost of butchering and packaging whole deer donated by Missouri hunters. To participate, hunters simply take their deer to an approved processor and indicate how much venison they wish to contribute, ranging from a few pounds to a whole deer. The funds provided for Share the Harvest by Gov. Nixon will help alleviate financial constraints on the program and raise the number of deer individual processors are able to accept.
The 2010 Missouri firearms deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 13. A complete list of participating meat processors is available on the Missouri state Web site. To access this information, Missourians can point their browsers to MO.gov and search for "Share the Harvest."