BOISE — A bill that aims to reduce metal thefts in Idaho is making its way through the legislature with support from the state’s farming community.
The legislation, which amends the state’s Scrap Metal Act, is backed by Idaho’s agricultural industry because of its potential to cut down on farm thefts.
“This bill should assist law enforcement in capturing and convicting metal thieves,” Idaho Farm Bureau Federation President Frank Priestley stated in a letter submitted to lawmakers.
The bill resolves several issues related to a similar bill passed last year that updated legislation designed to deal with metal thefts that passed in 2009.
Last year’s bill was authored by communications companies and utilities, which turned to agriculture to help get the legislation passed late in the session.
Food Producers of Idaho members recently voted unanimously to support this year’s bill also.
The bill has widespread support from multiple industries, said Mark Duffin, executive director of the Idaho Sugarbeet Growers Association.
“It’s not just agriculture. They’re stealing metal everywhere,” he said.
Last year’s bill requires scrap metal dealers to take photos of people who sell them metal items, as well as pictures of the vehicles they are using, the vehicle’s license plate and the item being sold.
It also ensures the owner of metal property is not civilly liable for injuries caused by a dangerous condition resulting from the theft of their metal.
Representatives of several industries and scrap metal dealers met after last year’s legislative session to develop further amendments to Idaho’s Scrap Metal Act.
This year’s bill would reduce the circumstances by which a scrap metal dealer can be charged with a felony under the act.
Priestley said the 2014 bill also expands the definition of what a scrap metal recycler is and clarifies record-keeping and photographic records requirements. It also defines metal products that can only be sold by authorized sellers.
FPI members said metal thefts from farms have risen significantly in recent years.
Meridian farmer Drew Eggers, who has spearheaded agriculture’s support of the legislation, said thieves stole a radiator and battery out of his tractor last summer. It was hard to find replacements for the 1970s-era tractor and Eggers had to jerry-rig it.
“Anything they can do to prevent the theft of valuable assets such as copper and aluminum, I appreciate it,” he said.
Priestley said the cost of metal theft can far exceed the value of the item stolen.
“If a pump or irrigation system is disabled during a critical irrigation period, damages can far exceed the cost of repairs if lack of water damages the crop to the point of reduced production,” he stated.