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Sergeant Michael B. Webb
Kentucky State Police
Public Affairs Branch
Office (502) 782-1780

Farmers Urged to Reduce Risk of Anhydrous Theft

(Frankfort, KY) -  Agriculture Commissioner Billy Ray Smith reminds farmers and farm businesses to take extra care to prevent thefts of anhydrous ammonia during the planting season.

Anhydrous ammonia is a common nitrogen fertilizer for crops. It also is a target for thieves who use it to produce the street drug methamphetamine or sell it on the black market.

The number of anhydrous thefts in Kentucky and other grain-growing regions has exploded in recent years; the Missouri Highway Patrol estimates that Missouri averages at least one anhydrous theft a night.

Anhydrous thefts cost the victims money and create the danger of exposure or explosion for victims, law-enforcement authorities, firefighters, and the thieves themselves.

"Farmers and farm supply businesses should take steps to make nurse tanks of anhydrous ammonia less inviting to thieves," Commissioner Smith said. "They need to look for telltale signs of thefts around tanks. And they should never, ever, interrupt a theft in progress."

Authorities offered the following recommendations:

  • Keep tanks in a well-lit area and out of plain sight from a road.
  • Try to keep on the farm only as much anhydrous ammonia as you need at a time. Have tanks delivered as close to the time of application as possible. Immediately return them to the bulk plant when finished. If application is delayed even a day or two because of weather, return the tank to the supplier.
  • When possible, lock the tank valve.
  • Look for evidence of theft around a tank, such as containers, hoses, or excessive footprints. If you are the victim of a theft, contact law-enforcement officials immediately and try not to disturb the scene.

Theft of anhydrous ammonia or possession of the substance in an improper container is a Class D felony punishable by one to five years in prison. Stealing or possessing anhydrous with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine is a Class B felony and carries a prison term of 10 to 20 years.

For more information, or to report a theft, contact the Kentucky State Police toll-free at 1-800-222-5555 (in the state of Kentucky only, does not work out of state); or your local law enforcement agency.

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