Agriculture crimes are big money in Mississippi - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Agriculture crimes are big money in Mississippi

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Usually working with few leads, the nine agents in the state depend on neighbors, identification markings such as branding, and technology. Usually working with few leads, the nine agents in the state depend on neighbors, identification markings such as branding, and technology.
Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith says increased scrap metal prices are partly to blame. Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith says increased scrap metal prices are partly to blame.
Agriculture is the state's largest industry, bringing in $7 billion a year, and farms are often the targets of theft and vandalism. Agriculture is the state's largest industry, bringing in $7 billion a year, and farms are often the targets of theft and vandalism.
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

 A cotton or soybean picker is common sight in Mississippi. Agriculture is the state's largest industry, bringing in $7 billion a year, and farms are often the targets of theft and vandalism.

"A lot of these rural crimes, there's no witnesses. There's nobody around, " said Director of the Mississippi Agriculture and Livestock Theft Bureau Jeff Stewart. 

He says the agency investigates everything from cattle theft, stolen equipment, and stolen chemicals. The bureau will also takes reports on stolen timber.  

Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith says increased scrap metal prices are partly to blame.

"Mississippi is a rural state and you just have to have those people who can go in and have that talent to get the information that they need in those investigations; to come to the sell barn and talk the folks there at the sell barn that are buying cows. You know, everybody knows everybody," said Hyde-Smith.

Usually working with few leads, the nine agents in the state depend on neighbors, identification markings such as branding, and technology. 

"It's easy to set up cameras at your property now. Game cameras, even the video cameras that are motion activated. Now, they're a lot less expensive now than they were five or ten years ago," said Stewart.

That's what happened in Claiborne County. Stewart says Steven Curtis, 48, was seen on camera taking a large amount of property. Curtis is now serving more than ten years.  

It's a case where one stolen item lead to many more. 

Theft bureau agents say some of the items recovered last year, had been missing for nearly a decade.

"(We) Ended up recovering right at $300,000 worth of stuff. I mean, tractors, countless number of four wheelers, actually some equipment that was stolen from the Claiborne County road crew. I think there was a backhoe out there that was stolen from them. A hay baler, this guy didn't even have a hay field," recalled Stewart.

There are multi-million dollar farming operations in Mississippi, along with mom and pop operations. 

Stewart says it's clear, the death of any animal or when an item is stolen makes an impact on the grower. 

"People always ask me, do they still steal cows in Mississippi? And the answer is yes they do. It's not as bad as it used to be, but with the rising costs of cattle and everything and livestock, it can really hurt a small time farmer," said Stewart. 

Once the farmer's cost of operation or loss increases, so do your prices at the grocery store and in restaurants. 

The theft bureau is usually contacted by local law enforcement, they have state-wide enforcement powers. 

However, you can contact them directly at 601-359-1121. 

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