A Manitoba farmer is warning other producers to be on the lookout for thieves after about 1,600 bushels of canola were stolen from his property over the winter.
Mixed grain farmer Les Wedderburn said he had gone out to rotate the grain bins on his farm near Alexander, Man., on Dec. 15 when he noticed one of them was half empty.
About 40 acres of canola was gone — a loss Wedderburn estimates set him back about $40,000 of what he would have made selling the crops.
“It’s like losing a year’s wages, right?” he said. “It’s a bit of a kick in the pants, for sure.”
Wedderburn said he’s heard his farm about 230 kilometres west of Winnipeg isn’t the only one that’s been targeted.
Radio Noon Manitoba8:45Farmer has about 16-hundred bushels of canola stolen from his property
“I have friends that lost grain last spring, canola. And I have another fellow I just talked to that’s pretty sure he lost two loads last year,” he said.
“Canola is the most valuable right now, so that’s a pretty good target. If you’re going to bother to take the risk of getting caught, you might as well have the expensive stuff.”
Manitoba RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Paul Manaigre said other than Wedderburn’s case, Mounties in the area have only had one other reported grain theft this year.
That farmer was in the area of the rural municipality of Argyle, a community about 165 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, and believes about 2,000 bushels of wheat were stolen from a grain bin on his property in mid-August last year, Manaigre said. The producer reported the theft on March 7.
But Manaigre said he’s “curious to see if the stats change in a month’s time as more and more farmers begin to check on their property and how it fared over the winter months.”
For Wedderburn, the heist on his property was a shock — it’s not something he said he expected in the “trusting” farming community.
But with many still struggling after last year’s drought and now facing rising costs for things like gas and fertilizer, he said he wonders if it could have been a fellow producer who stole from his supply to stay afloat themselves.
“If you don’t fill your contract, you pay it out. So it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s what happened, is [that it was] somebody that had a contract they couldn’t fill and they just stole some grain to fill it,” he said.
“I think there’s a lot of hurt out there. I think there’s a lot of guys that are going to be in a tough spot come spring.”
Now, Wedderburn said he’s waiting to see if police turn up anything in his case. In the meantime, he put a serial number product in his remaining grain and is looking at installing a camera security system on his property — and hopes other farmers will do the same.
And he hopes someone comes forward with information about what happened on his farm. Or, at the very least, that coming forward with his story helps prevent it from happening to someone else.
“I may never get any of mine back, but maybe we can stop these guys,” he said.
“I don’t think these people act alone. So it’ll come out sooner or later, I would think.”