It’s enough to make any farmer sick.
At the beginning of March, Kevin Kowalski of Bon Accord, Alta., discovered $100,000 worth of canola stolen from his bins.
He’d checked the bins about a month earlier and they seemed fine, but when his hired man went to load the canola, the bin doors were wide open “flapping in the breeze,” said Kowalski.
A week later at nearby Thorhild County, Redwater RCMP reported $80,000 worth of canola stolen from another set of bins.
A search of the RCMP database showed $13,000 worth of canola also stolen from a farm near Maidstone, Sask., in February.
In the news release about the theft, Redwater RCMP expressed surprise at how easy it was to sell the stolen canola.
“Once the canola has been stolen, we have learned that it is surprisingly easy to sell it at a substantial profit without having verifiable identification or proof of origin,” said the news release.
“Our complainant has advised that even with the use of a Super B truck, it would have taken several loads to remove all the product.
“Given the specific knowledge required to effect the theft, it is highly likely the suspects have a working knowledge of the farming process.”
Kowalski said he believed his four 2,000 bushel bins were in a secure location, beside a busy oil battery, about 800 metres off Highway 28, five kilometres west of Bon Accord.
Workers at the oil battery said they saw a truck at the bins, but assumed the farmer was hauling the grain. A neighbour also saw a strange truck, but thought Kowalski had bought a new one.
Kowalski believes the person who stole his canola is likely a farmer who had fallen on hard times.
“I used to have faith and integrity in farmers, but I guess times are changing,” said Kowalski.
He said the theft of his canola and the theft in Thorhild County are likely related.
Kowalski thinks the thief or thieves had to make at least three trips to get the canola and likely staked it out earlier.
“He wouldn’t just go in to steal barley,” said Kowalski. “It’s very brazen, but once he’s got it on the truck and out of the yard, he’s good.”
With no insurance and a canola contract to fill, Kowalski had to find other canola to fill the contract.
“It’s just cash out of the bank, is what it is.”
Kowalski said he has asked his insurance company about theft insurance three times in the past, but had always been told none was available. After the canola was stolen, the insurance company found a $20 rider that could have covered the theft.
“That was just a kick in the teeth after the fact.”
Morinville RCMP staff sgt. Mac Richards said it’s difficult for police to track stolen canola. Officers have talked to elevator agents and are looking for witnesses but have few leads.
“We’re starting from a long ways back,” said Richards. “We’re playing catch up.”
Kowalski said he would look into adding crop confetti to his harvested crop, but he’s not sure staff at the large high throughput elevators even notice the bits of theft-prevention paper in the grain. The confetti is likely more a deterrent for thieves.
Lindsay Ewbank, office manager with Cropgard Security, who sells the coded paper flakes, said demand for the product rises and falls with the price of grain.
“We’ve never had a phone call that (grain) treated with Cropgard has ever been stolen,” she said.
Pat Cowman of Operation Handsoff, which sells AgriDotDNA, another form of crop identification, said grain theft is directly related to the price of grain.
“When the price drops, theft drops.”