Historic Droughts and Wildfires Caused Hay-Bale Theft in U.S.
Will We Ever See the Hay Mafia?Economics 101 says that, all else being equal, when the supply of something goes down, the price should go up. That's exactly what has been happening with hay in drought and wildfire-afflicted areas of the United States. In fact, many aren't ready for fork up the extra cash, or they simply can't locate a seller, because there's been a big resurgence of hay bale thefts. "Sheriffs in rural counties in Colorado, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas say the spike in hay thefts is part of a broader rise in agricultural crime," writes the New York Times. It's not the most heinous crime out there by a long shot, but it affects the lives of many farmers and it's a symptom of the kind of extreme weather we've been experiencing. And on a warming planet, we should expect more...
California’s farmers have grappled recently with growing thefts of grapes, beehives and avocados, and sheriffs say high prices of scrap metal have made agricultural machinery — whether it works or not — an appealing target. Dubious online merchants are selling feed to farmers but never delivering. On the range, wire fences are being clipped to allow interloping herds to poach grazing land.
Most thieves make off with less than a ton of hay — about $200 to $300 worth, depending on the quality. But on Labor Day in Wellington, Colo., thieves hot-wired a front-end loader and stole enough hay from Conrad T. Swanson’s ranch to fill the flatbed trailer of a semi. (source)
In some areas it's serious enough that a sheriff in Tillman County, Okla., put a GPS-tracking device in a bale in a field particularly prone to thefts. The trick actually worked and the thieves were caught red-handed, but it's not exactly practical to track all hay bales with GPS, so until then, farmers will have to hope for a more cooperative weather.