Brazen canola theft a warning to farmers, say police

A seamless theft which has stumped investigators should be a warning to producers across the province to enhance securities on their farms, police say.

On March 19, thieves drained a grain bin near Glenboro, Man. on Highway 2 using an auger they had left on the property the night prior.

Robbers stole approximately $20,000 worth of canola seed from the farm which translates to about 2,000 bushels or a semi-trailer or two worth of the grain, according to the Manitoba Canola Growers' Association.

"That's obviously quite unusual because usually these sorts of thefts are much smaller in nature and it's usually a rather quick smash-and-grab," said RCMP Const. Derek Bodner.

"Clearly there was some forethought and planning involved."

Police are investigating several leads related to vehicles but so far they have no suspects. The auger used is a standard piece of farm equipment. 

Bodner said the theft shows farmers the importance of not letting their guard down.

"The unfortunate fact of the matter is that people are not locking up their grain bins or putting surveillance out so perhaps it will motivate some people to be a little bit more vigilant," he said.

Charles Fossay, president of the Manitoba Canola Growers' Association, agreed the crime is a cautionary one for farmers who may have become complacent.

For the last five or six years, grain prices have been low so the number of thefts has declined. But, he said, these crimes can still occur.

"This is a reminder to all farmers that it's not that hard for somebody to enter your yard and it only takes about 30 minutes for a thief to load up a semi load of grain, or a couple semis of grain, and leave your yard and you're out of pocket."

With a range of new technology on the market, farmers have options for beefing up security on their yards, Fossay said.

"There's paper confetti that has a serial number on it that is supposed to be specific to your farm….You can sprinkle a few handfuls of this confetti when you fill up a grain bin," he said.

Surveillance cameras that connect to smart phones are also becoming more popular, he said, especially on farm yards in remote locations. It's common for farmers to live many kilometres away from their yards.

"It certainly is changing from when I started farming. Back then the only security measures you really had was people living in the yard or a good guard dog," said Fossay.

RCMP said it's possible whoever stole the grain may take it across the border to process it.

If the thief is another farmer it's possible they can mix in the canola into their own product and sell it somewhat easily, said Dan Mazier, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers.

Anyone with information about the canola theft is asked to contact Carberry RCMP at 204-834-2905 or call Manitoba Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.