In a rising tide of rural larceny, thieves are tracking commodity prices to steal a wide variety of items on farms, reports USA Today. In California, the leading state in agricultural production, theft rings that last year stole artichokes, pomegranates, and diesel fuel have switched to nuts, avocados, citrus, tractors, irrigation pipe, and copper wiring. A central California task force arrested two men in a Sacramento warehouse Nov. 26 on suspicion of possessing 136,000 pounds of stolen almonds and walnuts valued at $403,000. Rural thievery “is increasing year by year,” says one official.
Farms are often wide-open targets after dark, “with nothing more than a fence on an isolated road barring criminals from bins full of harvested crops,” says Danielle Rau of the California Farm Bureau Federation. In southeastern states with vast pine forests, the leading theft problem is timber-cutting. In other states, thieves siphon anhydrous ammonia, a fertilizer that can be used to make methamphetamine, from farmers’ tanks. Other targets include ginseng in Michigan, Japanese radishes in Hawaii, and irrigation valves in Washington state.