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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Monday, December 4, 2006

Farm Theft is on the Rise

From USATODAY.com: In a rising wave of rural larceny, thieves are tracking commodity prices to steal everything that grows, plows or sprinkles on the USA's farms.

California, the No. 1 state in agricultural production, reports the biggest problems. Theft rings that kept police busy last year chasing stolen artichokes, pomegranates and diesel fuel switched this year to nuts, avocados, citrus, tractors, irrigation pipe and copper wiring, says Bill Yoshimoto, the supervising prosecutor for a 13-county Central California task force on farm crime.

The 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. The bust supplied leads in thefts this year of 14 truckloads of processed nuts worth $2 million, says Detective Vince Gallagher of the Merced County sheriff's department.

No national statistics are kept on rural thefts, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Farm Bureau Federation. Yoshimoto estimates that crops and equipment worth $1 billion will be stolen nationwide this year.

Research shows that farmers report only one in 10 thefts, he says. Reported thefts in the Central Valley totaled nearly $9 million last year and will top $10 million in 2006, indicating $100 million in actual thefts there, he says. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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