There’s never been a more important time for farmers to review their farm security as well as their insurance cover. NFU Mutual have recently announced that rural crime in the UK rose by over 5% in 2013, costing the country as a whole around £44.5 million. The most worrying trend is the rise in sheep rustling, which in some areas has risen by 25%. In many cases, large numbers of animals are being taken – in some cases whole flocks – and there is concern that they will become part of the food chain, making their origins, and the thieves, untraceable.
Today’s high-tech farm tools and machinery have also been a prime target, resulting in higher value insurance claims to replace expensive kit. However, older, less sophisticated items of plant are also at risk, as there is a lucrative trade in shipping those items to less affluent developing countries where maintenance can be carried out with simple hand tools. Quad bikes, farm chemicals, fuel and bale wrap are also being stolen with increased frequency.
The relative isolation of farmland means that farmers don’t enjoy the benefit of Neighbourhood Watch schemes or even nosey neighbours in the same way town dwellers do, so extra precautions need to be considered. Thieves can often wander onto farm property unseen, particularly if there is no occupied farmhouse on the land. The farm watchdog still has his place of course, but regular checks on padlocks, gates, barn doors and fencing should become routine. CCTV and intruder alarms can be expensive but are fast becoming a must-have, particularly on larger holdings, as both opportunists and organized gangs target the agricultural community.
Generally speaking, farm insurers are sympathetic to claims, understanding the vulnerability of stock and assets held on farmland, but if the trend continues they may become more reluctant to pay out when they consider a farmer has not taken every precaution to secure his property from theft. For more information on crime prevention and support for victims, please contact your local council or police force, who are always happy to help.
Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.