Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann recently helped launch the Mississippi Delta Agricultural Theft Task Force to help farmers protect their valuable equipment.
The goal is to combat metal theft on farms here in the Mississippi, Louisiana and even Arkansas and according to Hosemann it has so far been a success.
“I would say roughly thinking over my years of farming, I have been hit 10, 12 to 15 times,” said Billy Joe Ragland.
Ragland Owns Ragland Farms in Bentonia, and he knows all too well about the damage thieves can leave behind.
“If you add it all together," Ragland said. "I know we loss about $100,000 worth of stuff.".
After suffering such huge losses, the longtime farmer was pleased to hear about the state's new agricultural theft task force to help combat this growing problem of metal theft.
“It is very frustrating when you go and start your day, and you left your tractor in the field and you show up the next morning, and you realize they have taken all your batteries out,” said Ragland.
Hosemann said that, since April, the task force has done an excellent job of connecting law enforcement, scrap metal dealers and other helpful agencies to reduce metal theft and recover expensive, stolen equipment.
“Farmers have a very difficult time," Hosemann said. "Commodity prices are down, they struggle every year and risk their livelihood and their family’s livelihood every year to feed us, clothe us and gives us cotton. We should protect their assets. I don't think it is innovative, I think it is just something necessary."
The task force also works with a free online metal theft investigation system that provides nationwide info that can also help detect and develop leads.
"In the contacts we have established with Madison and Louisiana Parish, that is just across the river from us in Vicksburg, they found two four-wheelers that have been stolen. They had no contacts here, so they called our group," said Hosemann. "We got them with the Hinds County Sheriff's Department and they recovered the two four wheelers. I have had mine stolen before and nothing makes you madder. They recovered them in Jackson and two of them have been arrested."
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