National Rural Crime Action Week (18-24 September) sheds light on vital issues affecting rural businesses

Farmers need greater protection from rural crime, the NFU said yesterday (19 September), as National Rural Crime Action Week highlights the challenges rural businesses face.

This call for action follows months of collaboration between the NFU, government and other key industry organisations which led to the passing of the Equipment Theft (Prevention) Act, aimed at deterring the theft of quads and ATVs. The NFU is now asking for the act to be expanded to include other agricultural equipment, such as GPS systems.

Farm machinery theft is just one of many challenges farmers face nationwide, costing the UK £49 million in 2022 alone, according to NFU Mutual. An alarming surge in the theft of tractor GPS units cost the UK over £500,000 in the first four months of 2023, more than double compared to the same period in 2022, it said.

Other challenges farmers continue to contend with include hare coursing and livestock worrying.

The NFU, alongside other organisations, successfully campaigned for legislative changes regarding hare coursing which were included in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The NFU is pushing for the government to follow through its commitment to introduce legislation, originally included in the Kept Animals Bill, to tackle livestock worrying.

NFU Vice President David Exwood said: “Highly organised gangs of criminals have continued to plague the British countryside in recent years, stealing livestock, valuable farm machinery and expensive GPS equipment.

“We welcome the action government have taken to tackle hare coursing and ATV theft but urge the government to pass secondary legislation to widen the scope of the Equipment Theft (Prevention) Act to include other equipment, such as larger machinery or GPS systems, and to fulfil its commitments on livestock worrying.

“Farms often double as family homes and small businesses and these crimes have a significant impact on farming families, both financially and emotionally, and have left many rural communities feeling vulnerable and intimidated.

“The creation of the National Rural Crime Unit is a positive step that the NFU has long asked for. We look forward to seeing the benefits of intelligence sharing and increased collaboration that it will bring and the NFU will continue to work with stakeholders and police forces to make the countryside a safer place.”

Bob Henderson, NFU Mutual lead on rural crime, said: “We know the devastating impact rural crime can have on farmers, their families and the wider community, and our figures show that the cost of rural theft increased by 22 per cent to £49.5m in 2022.

“It is clear specialised policing is highly effective in tackling rural crime and we are proud to provide support and funding for the National Rural Crime Unit, which will strengthen work across the UK ensuring dedicated police resources are targeted where they are needed most. We welcome the work by the NFU to bring in changes in legislation to protect farmers and the wider rural community.”

National Rural Crime Action Week takes place on the 18-24 September 2023. Find out more here.