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Farmers fret over stolen metal

To some, copper is as good as gold. As the down economy slowly begins to recover, many California farmers and ranchers are still experiencing problems with petty theft of metal components from their property. Throughout a variety of agricultural regions, property crimes are leaving rural operations without brass fixtures, steel pipes, copper wires and other important items. Now, new laws have been passed to increase the penalties for such thefts, largely at the behest of the agricultural lobby in the state.

Official reports show that one of the bills actually cracks down on the individuals who steal the equipment, while the other focuses on the metal processing facilities that recycle the stolen goods. Supporters throughout the state are pressing for the governor to sign the two measures, which have already been approved by the state's legislature. Currently, many areas of the state lack the manpower and funding to police the metal recyclers who are playing into the system. Enforcement officers say they hope that the additional funding that could be provided by the measures will help protect the agriculture industry by increasing compliance.

Authorities say an increase in metal thefts throughout the region has left agricultural property owners to pay millions to replace the stolen goods. One farmer told journalists that he had spent $40,000 on replacement parts for his sprinkler system during the past year alone.

The legislative measures up for consideration by the governor would tighten permitting requirements for junk dealers who want to operate metal recycling locations. Further inspections would also be required to maintain those permits. These bills would likely result in more arrests and fines for individuals accused of stealing metal from agricultural operations. Even though the theft may seem minor, it is being prioritized as a criminal violation throughout the state. The governor has until Oct. 13 to approve the measures.

Source: agalert.com, "Legislation aims to help agencies fight metal theft" Christine Souza, Sep. 25, 2013

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