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Hay Thefts Soar As Drought Deepens

Your crime fodder ... sorry, make that blotter ... news of the day.

From St. Louis:

"As if it's not bad enough that Missouri farmers are trying to survive the worst drought in decades, now many of them are facing a new problem that's costing them big bucks. Missouri Farm Bureau president Blake Hurst says thieves are actually targeting those big bundles of hay that are left out in fields prior to being harvested, hauling them off and selling the valuable commodity." (CBS St. Louis)

Butler County, Kansas:

"Butler County sheriff's deputies are being ordered off the highways and onto county roads as they try to stop a big problem. Thieves are stealing thousands of dollars in hay bales." (KAKE-TV)

Butte County, California:

"Crops like hay have ... become a major target. 'It's happened to three different growers of ours, and some of them have been hit two or three times,' according to Custom Hay Operator Carl Martin. He says the number of thefts rose with the price of hay, and now that the crop is worth over $200 a ton, those growers are losing $200 to $300 of product every time they get ripped off." (KHSL-TV)

And earlier this year, from Frederick, Okla.:

"Two Tillman County men are facing felony charges of Knowingly Concealing and Withholding Stolen Property after their arrest for stealing hay from a local farmer. Sheriff Bobby Whittington states that the farmer suspected he was missing some round bales from a field northwest of Grandfield. A GPS tracking device was placed in one of the bales left in the field and when the alleged thieves drove off with the bale, it sent a text message to Sheriff Whittington's cellphone stating that the bale was moving." (Frederick Press-Leader)

You can see where this story's going. The deep drought across much of the nation, and an economy that's been struggling to get going in recent years appear to have combined to make hay quite valuable and quite attractive to thieves. So much so, in fact, that the sheriff in Oklahoma put something of a needle (that GPS tracking device) in a haystack to crack one case.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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