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Secure your farm

Agriculture.com Staff 01/05/2006 @ 2:00pm

After a long day in the field, shop, or barn, you trust that your tools and equipment will be safe until morning. Life in the country should be safe and secure.

But the rural community is changing. That neighbor you knew for 20 years is no longer down the road, and new faces have moved in. Urban sprawl is beginning to make its way into once-secluded farm communities. As a result, rural crime rates are on the rise.

"It used to be that everyone knew their neighbors in the country. People move around so much now. Farmers don't know their neighbors as well as they once did," says Dan Neenan, manager, National Education Center for Agricultural Safety.

In January 2005, the National Equipment Register (NER) compiled an Equipment Theft Report for 2004. According to the report, estimates of the total value of equipment stolen annually range between $300 million and $1 billion. The report notes one of the reasons for the high level of equipment thefts is easy access to equipment due to poor security.

To get an idea of how safe and secure farms in the Midwest are, Successful Farming magazine, in conjunction with the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS), evaluates three farms: a livestock and grain farm in Illinois; a hog and custom combining operation in Iowa; and a dairy farm in Wisconsin.

As safety expert Neenan walks through the individual farms with their owners, he evaluates the facilities and farm machinery based on an audit form developed by NECAS and Successful Farming magazine. The Farmstead Security Audit Form, which consists of 49 questions, evaluates the level of security on farms and farmsteads. The form enables farm owners to determine areas of their operations that could be more secure in order to prevent vandalism, theft, and terror-related activities. While the emphasis is on security, safety of the farm family, workers, and visitors are also a primary concern.

This four-part series shares the results of the farms scores and the improvements made to make the farms more safe and secure.

Ron and Brad Mapes work over 2,000 acres and raise approximately 900 cattle a year on their farm in Stockton, Illinois. Their operation consists of three separate farms. Ron has been farming for more than 47 years. Son Brad and daughter-in-law Kim have begun the transition of taking over.

Stepping into the shop on the main farm, the first issue is whether or not they lock the shop when they're not around or at night. They don't. A combine is parked in the shop with the keys in it. Considering the shop is left unlocked, both father and son know the keys should not be left in the machine. However, Ron notes, "If there's ever a fire, I won't have to run around to find keys." A good point, but it still makes a thief's job a lot easier. Father and son acknowledge this, especially given the fact that they're aware of recent thefts.

"I heard someone had a semen tank stolen right off the back of their truck. A friend in the area had tools stolen, and he didn't realize it until he began to look for them," notes Ron.

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