Thieves target California farmers and ranchers in ‘growing problem’: authorities

Thieves target California farmers and ranchers in ‘growing problem’: authorities

Thieves have been targeting farmers and ranchers in California, stealing expensive equipment, animals and even beehives as local officials sound the alarm over the daring heists.

“Crime is not confined to the cities,” The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office has warned.

“It is a growing problem in rural areas. Farmers, ranchers and agribusiness are being hit with thefts of heavy equipment, aluminum pipe, commodities, cattle and expensive farm chemicals.”

Photo of boxed farm supplies
Photo of boxed farm supplies The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office

The department noted stopping crime in the rural areas poses a “unique challenge.”

Last week the sheriff’s office revealed 96 beehives were stolen in late January from a field near Interstate 5. No arrests have been made as authorities sought the public’s help in finding the hives that are multi-colored and branded with the letters “MEB.” 

An Instagram page dedicated to agriculture crime in the Golden State has highlighted numerous thefts dating back to over a year ago, including a forklift that was loaded into a gooseneck trailer and pulled by a white pick-up truck in Tulare County and a Caterpillar 415 Backhoe that was stolen in Madera County in December.

Photo of a truck on a farm
Photo of a truck on a farm The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office

Over the summer, Merced County Sheriff investigators were able to recover about $1 million worth of stolen farm equipment, KFSN reported at the time.

Legislation to attack the troublesome trend was passed into law last year, SFGate reported.

“For farmers, losing a $100,000 tractor can be devastating,” Senate Bill 224, which was introduced by state Sen. Shannon Grove, said. “These losses require time and money to replace, fix and/or recover the equipment and can result in a complete loss of crops. For smaller operations, this can be career ending. 

“Theft of agriculture equipment not only affects the ability of farmers and agriculture business owners to make a living, it also paralyzes their production of commercial goods in the form of food, textile materials and water.”

The lawmaker noted back in 2018 there was roughly $1 million in losses of agricultural equipment, according to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department.

The Golden State has faced a consistent problem of robbers ransacking retail locations, including one instance where Gov. Gavin Newsom witnessed the brazen shoplifting.


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