Editor's note: Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert, the weekly newspaper for the California Farm Bureau Federation.
With theft of metals from farms and ranches remaining a chronic problem, farm groups and law enforcement organizations support several bills intended to tighten regulations and make resale of metal more difficult for thieves.
In recent years, California farmers and ranchers have spent hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars to replace stolen metal, such as copper wiring from irrigation pumps, steel irrigation pipes and much more.
Stanislaus County almond grower Grant Davis, who is also president of GDI Insurance Agency in Turlock, has been a victim of metal theft in the past and said the problem is not going away.
"Over the years, we've had our pump stolen and a strainer—that stainless steel filter—that's cost me $1,000 to replace and they probably got $50 for it. Pretty much in general, anything you leave out or unsecured is just gone," he said.
Davis said he also lost four rows' worth of brass sprinklers, and a neighbor lost 37 acres' worth.
"It wasn't just stolen metal; they come through with baseball bats and break the pipe. Plus, they steal my golf carts, my kids' motorcycles, bicycles and even hand tools. And my whole property is fenced," he said.
As a result of the damage, Davis replaced his broken irrigation system with plastic pipes that he said don't function as well as the metal pipe.
To find the culprits in these metal theft cases and other crimes, GDI started a reward program offering up to $500 for information leading to the arrest of thieves or return of stolen property.
To combat metal theft on a larger scale, the California Farm Bureau Federation has sponsored Assembly Bill 909 by Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced. The bill would create a Metal Theft Task Force Program at the Board of State and Community Corrections. When funded, the program would provide grants to local law enforcement agencies and district attorneys to focus on metal theft and recycling crimes.
"Metal theft continues to be a problem for farmers and ranchers throughout California. Farm Bureau is sponsoring AB 909 to provide additional tools to local law enforcement to focus on metal theft. It is important that California have a statewide task force to address metal theft," said Noelle Cremers, CFBF director of natural resources and commodities.
"Thieves will sell stolen metal wherever they can get away with it," Cremers said. "AB 909 will help stop the practice of stealing metal in one area and selling it in another, by providing law enforcement agencies throughout California help in addressing metal theft."