By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- Idaho's agricultural community is supporting a scrap metal bill that it hopes will help reduce farm thefts.
The bill would require scrap metal dealers to take photos of people who sell them metal items as well as pictures of the vehicle they are using, the vehicle's license plate and the item being sold.
"It makes record-keeping a lot better at the scrap yards and hopefully that will deter thefts or at least make the traceability a lot better," said Meridian farmer Drew Eggers.
The bill was authored by communications companies and utilities.
It updates legislation passed in 2009 designed to deal with metal thefts but Neil Colwell, director of state government relations for Avista, told Food Producers of Idaho members March 6 that the company has continued to deal with thefts since that law was passed.
With time running out in the 2013 Idaho Legislature, Avista and other communications companies and utilities asked the state's farming community for help in getting the bill passed.
Food Producers of Idaho, which includes more than 40 of the state's main ag groups and businesses, normally waits at least a week before taking a position on a bill. However, the group suspended its rules and voted to support House Bill 241 March 6.
"No farmer in his right mind would be against this bill," said Eggers, who is leading agriculture's support of the legislation. "The farm community is supporting this bill for the same reasons as they are."
The proposed bill also ensures the public or private owner of metal property is not civilly liable for injuries caused by a dangerous condition resulting from the theft of their metal property.
FPI Executive Assistant Benjamin Kelly said that although thefts of metal items from farms has always been a problem, they have been increasing recently.
"They've been on the rise for a while," he said. "Since the recession, more and more things are getting stolen."
Thieves are taking copper wiring, electronic boxes out of pivots, scrap iron, aluminum and even irrigation pipes while water is still flowing through them, he said.
"Anything that's going to be worth money, they will steal," he said.
Eggers said he knows of multiple farm shops in the area that were broken into and had items stolen this winter. Thieves even stole the 50-pound front end weights off his neighbor's John Deere tractor in daylight.
"No farmer in their right mind ever scraps those because they're so valuable," Eggers said.