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Protect your farm shop investment

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By Doug Rich

A new, well-lit, heated farm shop equipped with all the necessary tools soon becomes the center of activity on any farm. It can also become the center of attention for would-be thieves looking for an easy score.

If you are in the process of planning a new farm shop or already have one built, spend some time considering how to reduce the risk of theft on your farm.

Theft of property from rural farms and ranches is an ongoing problem. For example, from 2009 to 2011 the Missouri Livestock and Farm Protection Task Force working with the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Rural Crimes Investigative Unit investigated 891 incidents, arrested 182 suspects and recovered $2,871,738 in stolen property.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Preliminary Annual Crime Statistics for 2011, property crime decreased 14 percent in metropolitan counties but increased 2.6 percent in non-metropolitan counties. This same report stated that larceny thefts increased 4.1 percent in non-metropolitan counties.

Theft prevention can be as simple as neighbors watching out for each other or as sophisticated as installing electronic alarm systems. The National Sheriff's Association recommends watching your neighbor's property and reporting suspicious persons, vehicles, or activity to your local law enforcement agency. Be sure to notify your neighbors when you will be gone, but don't make it known to the entire community.

"The sky is the limit on how much you want to do to prevent thefts such as cameras or alarm systems, but we first recommend that neighbors keep an eye on each others' property," Jon Eidson, Missouri State Highway Patrol, said.

"Each farmer knows his area best but what we recommend for them is to document the numbers on their equipment, trucks or anything that might be stolen," Eidson said. "If the farmer does not know what the numbers are, it is difficult for us to prove that it is theirs." Farm equipment can be broken down and sold just like anything else, that this is why it is so important to document the numbers on the equipment so if it is sold to someone else it can be tracked down."

The Agriculture and Equipment Theft Crime Prevention program at Southeast Missouri State University takes the numbering system one step farther. They suggest that all equipment and property be marked individually and independently from the factory serial number. The owner numbering system they recommend is a nine-character code. The first two characters are the farmer's initials, the next two are the first two letters of the county where the farm is located, followed by the two-letter code for the state. The last three digits are a numbering system for the equipment starting with 001.

Keep a record of the owner-assigned numbers along with the factory serial numbers.

The National Sheriff's Association also suggests keeping valuable tools, chemicals, seed, and portable machinery in sturdy outbuildings or bins in the barn and securing them with strong doors and deadbolt locks, or with case-hardened steel padlocks and hasps. Although this is difficult to do when farms are spread out of a large area, they suggest keeping machinery and all vehicles near the residence in a visible, well-lighted area. Lock all of the vehicles. They also suggest keeping fuel supplies in a well-lighted area under lock and visible from the house where possible. Don't leave keys to your house or outbuildings hidden outside and don't leave messages for visitors tacked to your door. Keep all the doors to barns, sheds, and grain elevators closed and locked when not in use. Place large-size Neighborhood Watch and Operation Identification warning signs at strategic locations around your property where they can be seen by potential thieves.

Even if you take all of these precautions, there is still a chance that you might have equipment or tools stolen from your farm. Don't neglect your insurance. Farm Bureau Financial Services said a farm or ranch operation has many exposures that need to be protected including your home and its contests, farm personal property, and outbuildings where expensive items are stored. There may also be business exposures such as custom farming, farmers markets, or custom feeding operations.

Farm Bureau Financial Services recommends that every farmer and rancher complete a needs assessment of their operation, create an inventory of their farm property, learn more about optional coverages, and work with an insurance agent on an annual insurance review.

"Your operation isn't just your business, it's your livelihood," said Dan Pitcher, chief operating officer Property-Casualty companies, Farm Bureau Financial Services. "That is why building a relationship with your insurance agent can be a huge benefit to you as a farmer or rancher. You know your agent is keeping up with the changing needs of your operation, and that helps you protect your bottom line."

Basically anything you can do that causes a would-be thief to take more time, make more noise, or be more visible will make your farm and farm shop more secure.

Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304, or by email at richhpj@aol.com.

Date: 1/14/2013



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