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 in hay thefts is actually part of a broader rise in agricultural crime.

Hay thefts in Weld County, Colorado more than doubled in 2012 – up to 15 from seven in 2011.  Farmers in California have seen a growing number of grape, beehive and avocado thefts.

Sheriffs say high prices of scrap metal also make agricultural machinery an appealing target. 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. -NAFB