The theft of farm and construction machinery costs $1 billion nationally each year, says the Louisville Courier-Journal. Kentucky farm larceny reports rose to 357 in 2003 from 41 in 1996 — or 770 percent. Some thieves sneak onto farms to steal tanks of liquid fertilizer used to make methamphetamine. Thieves know that farm equipment is increasingly costly and hard to trace. A $60,000 backhoe can be hauled off at night, have its serial number changed, and be sold without a title at an out-of-state auction.
No state requires farm equipment to be licensed, according to the American Farm Bureau. Based on a national database of about 5,000 thefts submitted to the insurance industry-funded National Equipment Register, Indiana ranked eighth in reports of stolen farm and heavy equipment in 2004 and 2003. Kentucky ranked 23rd in 2004 and 24th in 2003. Texas was No. 1, Illinois was seventh and Missouri eighth in 2004. The rise in thefts is tied to the increasing sophistication and cost of farming. Today’s farms compete globally, are bigger and need larger, more expensive equipment to keep up. Tractors can cost more than $100,000 apiece.