Les Wedderburn estimates crooks stole about $40,000 of canola
By Diego Flammini
A Manitoba farmer is sharing his experience of being a victim of grain theft hoping other producers will take the necessary steps to prevent similar incidents on their own farms.
Thieves stole 1,600 bushels of canola, worth about $40,000, from a grain bin on Les Wedderburn’s farm in Rivers, Man.
An unfamiliar truck entered the yard one day while working around a hopper bin.
“We were rotating the canola so it’s not just sitting there,” Wedderburn told Farms.com. “My brother was feeding cattle when he saw a black truck come in. When he went over to see who it was, the driver was already gone and we were suspicious of that because if it was a neighbour or something they would’ve stopped in.”
Wedderburn believes the thieves came back that night to steal the grain.
But he didn’t notice until more than a month later.
“We got up on the bins to make sure everything was alright and noticed the bin was half gone,” he said. “At first we thought maybe we dumped the grain into another bin but no, the grain was stolen.”
Wedderburn reported the theft to the police but isn’t hopeful the authorities will be able to help.
“They’ve struggled to find any evidence other than what we’ve given them,” he said. “We have our suspicious and we’re not going to stop trying to find out who took it.”
The police should have a provincial representative dedicated to farm incidents, Wedderburn said.
Wedderburn wants other farmers to be proactive in protecting their assets.
He plans to install security cameras on his property and use Cropgard to protect his crops.
Cropgard is pieces of confetti with a code number on it that farmers can register with the company. If a thief steals grain with the confetti in it, he or she will be transporting evidence with them.
Farmers don’t realize how vulnerable they are until it’s too late, he said.
“There are so many things on farms that are vulnerable,” he said. “From tools to fuel to fertilizer, those are easy to access and get at. We need to be more diligent about who is coming in and out of our yards.”
And Wedderburn wouldn’t be surprised if more thefts occur.
“There’s all sorts of scenarios out there that could make someone think about stealing grain,” he said. “If you forward contracted grain and couldn’t fill that contract, maybe you steal someone else’s grain.”
Multiple incidents of farm theft have occurred across the Prairies in recent years.
In October 2021, Miles Moore, a producer near Outlook, Sask. had 1,800 bushels of canola stolen from his farm.
In September 2021, RCMP charged two Albertans with connections to cattle theft and fraudulent sales.
And in September 2020, a Kaleida, Man. farmer reported about 50 tonnes of canola stolen from his property.