It’s not enough to have to contend with saturated global markets, trade wars, and climate change – all outside farmers’ control. Not to mention the everyday headaches farmers face to turn a profit. But thieves? From copper wire to farm machinery to stored grain theft, farm security is increasingly under siege.
There was a time when you could wake up in the morning confident that your tractor, combine, quad, and tools would be right where you left them. Not anymore. Many farmers are learning the hard way that almost anything in their operation is up for grabs – literally. Rural theft has been on the rise, and it’s increasingly hard to stay one step ahead of clever thieves.
For growers, the problem is real. All you need to do is read the news, or in some cases, talk to your neighbor to understand how prevalent stored grain theft is.
Here are some recent examples:
Law enforcement caught and prosecuted many of these thieves. Many more are not caught.
From Farm to Fortress, Farmers Get Proactive
Farmers have been upping security measures for years, some going as far as welding locks closed on high value items. Farms are often now more like farm fortresses.
As thieves turn their attention more often to rural areas, farmers and law enforcement are teaming up to stop them. From surveillance cameras to high-tech grain monitoring systems, farmers are fighting back.
Right now, many growers are more likely to store than sell their next harvest, so grain security is paramount. A common single bin on a farm holds roughly $150,000 worth of grain, and of course farmers have multiple bins. If there were $150,000 cash inside each of those bins, you can bet security would be a top priority. Yet, farmers tend to be cavalier about farm security until they fall victim themselves.
If you’ve taken a nonchalant position toward farm security, it’s not too late to act. Taking a few precautions will help protect your stored grain from greedy poachers.
Security Measures to Stop Stored Grain Theft
First, you have to understand that grain theft isn’t easy. It takes scouting, planning, and preparations for thieves to drive off with your profits. In one instance, grain poachers brought their own auger to a remote bin site the night before the theft. Each security layer that you put in place is one more thing thieves have to contend with and plan for. Make it hard. Make it not worth the effort.
Paper confetti – Paper confetti deters thieves. It’s been around for decades and has been instrumental in proving ownership. You sprinkle handfuls of confetti into your grain as you load it into the bin. A five-pound package is enough for 30,000 bushels. Each tiny piece of paper has a seven digit number that identifies the state, county, and specific farmer. Bonus: it comes with a set of signs alerting would-be thieves that the grain is identified.
Security cameras – Modern surveillance technology allows you to connect your cameras to your smartphone. 360-degree cameras can track moving vehicles in a remote area; infrared cameras provide night vision. Cameras can zoom in, record, and work in concert with each other for synchronized playback. You can hand over time-stamped evidence to law enforcement on a simple memory stick. One Iowa farm family realized unanticipated benefits of their security cameras, so again – bonus!
Location – Most grain bins are vulnerable targets because of their remote locations. Whenever possible, set up grain bins near your home where you can monitor access. When that isn’t possible, consider putting bins along a busy road instead of in a more remote location.
Locks – Anyone who’s ever locked up a quad only to find it missing later may not put a lot of faith in locks. Like any other industry though, they just keep getting better. You can find a whole range of locks now from boots that keep machinery in place and keypad locks to bolt cutter resistant locks and smart locks. Remember, it’s all about layering security instead of relying on a single solution.
Lights – To increase the visibility of your grain storage bins at night, invest in a good lighting system. Let’s face it, criminals do their best work under the cover of dark. Beyond site lighting and flood lights with remote control, you can install motion activated spotlights. Be sure to coordinate lighting with security cameras for the best results.
Single entry – Having a single entry point to your storage area is another strong deterrent. Fences, deep ditches, and other physical barriers can protect other approaches. Secure gates at the single entry with cutter resistant locks and chains, or double-sided keyless gate locks.
GrainTrac: The Silent Grain Watchdog That Never Sleeps
GrainTrac is a remote grain temperature monitoring system that protects your grain during storage. It’s loaded with features that keep the condition of your grain predictable and your market price profitable. You don’t have to worry about the most common losses suffered by grain farmers – out of condition grain.
But like other measures designed to keep your grain safe, GrainTrac has another bonus – a theft monitoring circuit. Whenever your grain handling equipment is started or stopped, it alerts you on your smartphone or by email. You can also configure alerts during harvest to monitor truck loading and unloading at your bin sites – double bonus.
It used to be nearly impossible to stop grain thieves from stealing stored grain in remote areas. Now, you have the tools to stop them, or at least slow them down enough to catch them in the act. Even if grain poachers manage to bypass all your security measures, you’ll have evidence to help law enforcement recover your property.