Thieves target farms

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, June 7, 2012

During tough economic times, just about anything is a target for thieves.

Never has that been more evident than what happened recently at a Talladega feed mill.

“Thieves made off with $175,000 in feed corn,” said Grant Lyons, Pike County Extension coordinator. “Investigators said that was the equivalent of 25 tractor trailer loads. In addition, there was about $80,000 in property damage.”

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Lyons said the theft of such a huge amount of feed corn should be a warning to farmers and producers that their commodities are prime pickings for thieves.

“Farm commodities have a high value and they are easy to dispose of so that makes them especially attractive to thieves,” Lyons said. “Feed corn is a prime target for thieves that own livestock, or know of people who do. Once feed corn is fed to animals, it’s gone.”

Another potentially lucrative source of corn feed disposal is the state’s multibillion-dollar hunting industry. Tons of feed corn is required to source wildlife plots.

Max Runge, Alabama Cooperative Extension economist, said that farm theft is not limited to feed.

“Thieves have been known to poach trees,” he said. “When prices go up, poachers are ready, just as they are with feed. And, farm theft is not limited to commodities. Due to the rising cost of copper, thieves are targeting the copper fittings of center pivot irrigation systems.”

Runge said farmers should take precautions in an effort to reduce the risk of theft.

“Unlocked gates are calling cards for thieves,” he said. “Farmers should also create open spaces around farm offices, utility sheds and warehouses and light these areas at night, especially those where larger amounts of fuel and chemicals are stored.

“Parked farm vehicles should also remain out of view. And, with the rising prices of gasoline and diesel, there are plenty of incentives to siphon gas, especially in remote rural areas where there is less chance of getting caught.”

Lyons said all farmers should be aware that thieves are on the prowl and take precautions.

“It’s also important to keep a record of farm inventory,” he said. “During times like this, you can’t be too cautious or too careful.”