Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hay rustling in the news, again--this time the national news

From the Newton County Times to the New York Times, hay rustling has made the headlines recently. A few days ago I published this post about what is happening in Arkansas and Missouri.  Today, the New York Times published a story under the headline, "Cash for Hay Driving Thieves to Move Bundles."  Here's an excerpt from Jack Healy's story in the NYT:
Months of punishing drought and grass fires have pushed the price of hay, grain and other animal feed to near records, making the golden bales an increasingly irresistible target for thieves. Some steal them for profit. Others are fellow farmers acting out of desperation, their fields too brown to graze animals and their finances too wrecked to afford enough feed for their cattle.
Healy goes on to note that the rise in hay thefts in states like Colorado, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas is part of a "broader rise in agricultural crime," including "thefts of grapes, beehives and avocados" in California, where farmers have also had to deal with theft of agricultural machinery as scrap metal prices have risen.  "On the range," Healy writes, "wire fences are being clipped to allow interloping herds to poach grazing land."  I wrote this 2011 post about the rise in pecan thefts in Georgia.

As for the hay thefts, most make off with less than $200-$300 worth at a time--less than a ton.  But some thefts have been larger, like the one over Labor Day at Conrad Swanson's ranch near Wellington, Colorado, where thieves made off with a flatbed trailer full.  The remoteness of rural locales presents an added challenge for law enforcement officials trying to catch the culprits--as does the fungibility of the product stolen.  As Healy notes, reclaiming a stolen bale of hay is "harder than finding a needle in a -- well, never mind."

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