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Gone in 60 Seconds: Hay Theft on the Rise in Farm Country

Grace Hood

The Greeley Tribune is reporting that the number of hay theft cases have doubled this year from seven to 15. That’s on top of an estimated six instances of theft in next door Larimer County in 2012.

For enterprising types, unattended hay is starting to cast an allure similar to fine jewelry and electronics. Across the country from California to Nebraska to Oklahoma, hay heists are on the rise. When you take an economic look at the situation, it’s easy to understand why.

Drought has pushed supply down. According to one USDA estimate alfalfa hay is down by as much as 15 percent this year. The crunch is pushing prices up. In Colorado, which experienced a shortage in 2011 due to drought in Texas, prices are some of the highest in the country.

“We’ve been trying to pull hay in from other regions, but since other regions and other states are just as dry as we are, it’s just a pretty dire situation,” says Tess Norvell, who tracks hay prices for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Greeley.

While Colorado may have the highest prices, some states like South Dakota have it worse. According to this spreadsheet prepared by the USDA, prices there have gone from a low of 79 in February 2011 to a high of 209 last month.

Among the nearly two dozen theft cases in Northern Colorado, police have been unable to catch thieves in the act. But authorities in Oklahoma had some success thanks to a GPS tracker that was inserted into a hay bale.

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