4th April 2023

What can farmers like Jeremy Clarkson do to protect against theft on their land?

Thrings Agriculture lawyers Clarksons farm protect against theft

As viewers see Jeremy Clarkson sink significant amounts into his farm venture, we look at what farmers and landowners can legally do to protect their valuable assets.

Jeremy Clarkson has made a huge investment in his Diddly Squat Farm – including land, livestock, and machinery. These assets are estimated to be worth over £6million – and even for a wealthy TV presenter, falling victim to thieves would be a costly and heart-breaking experience.

Following one episode of his show Clarkson’s Farm, viewers took to social media to laugh at Clarkson when he opted for a £40,000 Lamborghini tractor over the usual Massey Ferguson model that most farmers would choose. This large, complex vehicle is not only too advanced for an amateur farmer, but it’s also highly attractive to criminals – so Clarkson would do well to have a think about security and prevention.

Each year, burglary and theft cost farmers and landowners millions of pounds. In 2020, it was stated that livestock thefts totalled over £2.3 million and agricultural vehicle theft rose by 25%. The high cost of fuel is also driving thieves – according to the NFU Mutual Crime Report, just under half of farmers say that fuel theft is the crime which they are most concerned about.

With farms providing such rick pickings for thieves, how can farmers best protect their land and assets – and ensure business continuity if the worst does happen?

Increase security

Prevention is always better than cure, and farmers can take several measures to ensure their land and assets are secure. Be sure to strengthen security around land such as security barriers, CCTV, and alarm systems.

Gates (so long as not crossing a public right of way) should always be shut and locked – an open gate often invites opportunist thieves. All walls and fences should be well maintained and robust.

Be vigilant

It sounds basic, but thieves are opportunists and will take advantage of a momentary lapse – so be on guard at all times. Vehicles should be securely locked with keys removed from the ignition – even if they are only briefly unattended.

Fuel tanks should be locked with chains and padlocks which can be purpose built.

Livestock should be tagged, and an accurate and recent record of all your animals should be kept – complete with clear photographs.

Check your insurance

Farmers and landowners should regularly check and update insurance policies to cover all assets – including fuel, machinery, and livestock. Many farmers find they are underinsured when an incident happens, often because circumstances change over time and can be faced with unexpected financial pressure at the worst possible time. Changes that may affect insurance cover include changes to buildings, rising values of second-hand machinery, and bringing new assets onto the farm.

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One of the most common errors in agricultural insurance is miscalculating the insurance that is necessary to cover everything that is needed. Often, farmers will only cover the market value of an asset – without considering the costs and challenges involved if a theft occurs – for example the need to temporarily hire equipment.

It’s important to have your assets revalued regularly before each insurance renewal – this will make sure you are covered up to the correct valuation. NFU Mutual has a range of policies to cover farms against theft and has local agency offices to help farmers successfully claim for stolen assets.

Invest in security solutions

Farmers can invest in CESAR – a database system which allows stolen machinery to be identified and returned, making it twice as likely to be returned compared to unmarked equipment. The industry standard triangular identification mark of CESAR on agricultural machinery makes it highly unattractive to criminals.

Tools and equipment can also be marked with a DNA marking service. This marks vehicles with a unique DNA formula, linked to a Secure Access Register, allowing equipment to be reunited with its owner. The marking service also acts as a deterrent to criminals.

Farmers can join Neighbourhood Watch – encouraging rural communities to look out for one another. This can lessen the likelihood of crime occurring and strengthens the community's resilience.

Some Rural Crime Officers run a farmers group on WhatsApp that allows local farmers to quickly contact the local Rural Crime Officer and share information about local thefts and threats. This allows you to contact the relevant officer quickly and promotes awareness and vigilance amongst the farming community. Call your local police force to find out if a local group is being run in your area.

What to do if you are burgled

If the burglar is still on site, try to remain calm and call 999. Move to the safest area if the thief is still there – never try and confront an intruder, as they may become violent.

If the theft has already occurred, try not to touch anything in the property and create a list of the noticeable missing items. Call 101 to report the theft and then police – they will give you a crime reference number which can be used for insurance purposes.

The Thrings Agriculture team has been chosen by the NFU to act for its members in more counties than any other firm. Find out more about how we can support farmers, food producers and rural communities on our Information for Farmers page.

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