Chronic wasting disease (CWD) causes deer and elk’s brains to degenerate leading to severe weight loss, abnormal behavior, and ultimately death. The first cases in Arkansas were documented in 2016. While there have not been any cases of CWD infecting humans, people are strongly advised against eating infected meat because not enough is known about the potential threat to humans.

This disease could pose an economic threat to our local and state economies as well as damage our ecosystem. As of October 30, 2018, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) found 377 confirmed cases of CWD in Arkansas deer. This is a relatively low number and these few cases likely do not have a large effect on the economy, but the danger to our economy would come if the disease continues to spread.

The economic impact of CWD has already been noted in states where the disease has been prevalent for several years. Professor Richard C. Bishop estimates that the CWD outbreaks in Wisconsin have caused losses in the hunting industry that have added up to anywhere from 53 to 79 million dollars in 2002. Wisconsin had about 600,000 registered hunters that year, so the loses came to between 85 and 127 dollars per hunter. Bishop also noted that while these losses are small related to the whole economy, they are influential in some rural areas but data is unavailable to estimate the exact amount.

Suppose that CWD spreads to Arkansas as widely as it did in Wisconsin in 2002. Arkansas hunters would likely experience similar losses, and it isn’t just the hunters themselves who would be impacted, businesses would be influenced as well. The spread of the disease has already caused increases in regulation and restrictions on baiting deer. These regulations have been placed on deer feed, mineral licks, and other baits because these items increase the risk of the disease spreading. Depending on the severity of such regulations, businesses that produce those goods could suffer great losses. With the restrictions in place, the demand for items such as deer corn or nut grub would decrease, resulting in lost revenue for the business. It would be especially hard on small, local businesses whose main revenue is from the production and sale of deer baits and related goods. This could also cause job losses since the lost revenue would lead to budget cuts at best, and completely shutdown the businesses at worst. In an article written by the University of Tennessee Department of Agricultural Economics, it is estimated that, should CWD spread to Tennessee, the state would experience total economic losses of 98 million dollars and 1,459 lost jobs. Data on these subjects in not currently available to provide an accurate estimate for lost jobs and revenue in Arkansas but it can be expected that we would see similar results as occurred in Wisconsin and as estimated in Tennessee. If Arkansas saw the same rate of job loss that Tennessee saw, 650 Arkansans would lose their jobs as a result of CWD.

This columnist is an Intermediate Microeconomics  student of Log Cabin columnist Joe McGarrity. Each guest column is vetted by McGarrity before publication in the newspaper. For more information or to contact the writer, email joem@uca.edu.