Copper Thieves Targeting Jackson County Farmers - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Copper Thieves Targeting Jackson County Farmers

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Jackson County, FL -

As if the unpredictable weather isn't enough for farmers to worry about,  now they're dealing with copper thieves who are finding exactly what they're looking for on the farm.

Irrigation systems are an important asset to farmer Jeff Pittman and his crops. But lately, they've become the perfect target for copper thieves.

"They're actually taking the wire off of the systems, which disables the system of course," said Pittman.

In the last few weeks, Pittman's had at least three irrigation systems be stripped of it's copper wire.

"It's an average cost of eight dollars per foot to put it back, and this system behinds us is 1,400 feet long," explained Pittman. "So 1,400 times eight is what it would cost not counting the down time."

Without an irrigation system providing water and any controls of mother nature, Pittman's crops suffer.

"It might take up to a week to put that copper back on, so you also lose on the crop, so it's a real problem," said Pittman.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office says this is not an isolated incident. Other farms this year have reported copper theft and irrigation systems have become targets in the past in previous years.

"The thief doesn't have anything invested in it," explained Major Donnie Branch. "So if he's gonna get five pounds, five pounds is going to be good for him."

Meanwhile, Pittman is hoping to make his irrigation systems waterproof to thieves. He's taking action and installing devices on his irrigation systems, which would notify law enforcement officials if they were tampered with. 

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office says the thieves are stealing the copper at night and if anyone sees anything suspicious to call them.

"Hopefully it's just the landowner checking on his pivot system, but it may not be," said Major Branch.

Pittman says approximately 2,500 feet of copper wire was stolen, which would cost about $20,000 to replace.

Copper theft, not just with farmers, is common throughout Jackson County. Major Branch says it's not nearly as severe as it was about a year ago since legislation has passed to make it harder to sell scrap metal as well as make the penalty greater.