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AGRIBUSINESS: Hay Thefts On The Rise

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It may not seem like a big deal - but hay thefts in Weld County, Colorado more than doubled in 2012 - up to 15 from seven in 2011. Perhaps the rising number of hay thefts is simply a result of the drought - but sheriffs in rural counties in Colorado, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas say the spike is actually part of a broader rise in agricultural crime.

Law enforcement officials say there’s not much they can do to prevent the thefts or catch the culprits - particularly when it comes to hay. It’s definitely no easy task to tell one bale of hay from another. Farmers are doing what they can - padlocking their gates, painting their bales with their brands or finding other ways to mark their ownership. One farmer in Oklahoma even used a GPS unit to bug a bale in a theft-prone field.

Dale Lesslein, who runs Dyersville Sales, a major hay auction in NE Iowa says thefts are also occurring in Iowa.  He recommends that farmers who have round bales outside, put them in a place that is hard to see and monitor them closely.  "At $250 a bale, it's tempting for folks to drive off with them."