Farmers Arm Themselves Against Pecan Thieves | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Farmers Arm Themselves Against Pecan Thieves

Play associated audio

The past two years have been good for pecans — so good, in fact, that there's been a spike in pecan theft from California to Georgia. And it's not people swiping a few nuts from a tree in someone else's backyard, but theft in amounts that could land someone in jail.

Greg Daviet's century-old family farm has harvested pecans in Las Cruces, New Mexico, since 1965. This year, Daviet tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz, an increase in demand from Europe, the Middle East and India has led to a price hike, with China as the top importer.

"I am not an expert on it by any means, but they are apparently considered a delicacy," Daviet says. "They're primarily used as gifts during the Chinese New Year."

In past years, the price of pecans has been around 60 cents a pound. This year, they are about $2.85 per pound in New Mexico and surrounding regions. Trees are often planted more than a decade in advance, so predictions can be hard to make on how much crops will sell for. High prices in one year can help sustain farmers during the low-price seasons.

Security Measures

More valuable crops mean farmers have another problem to deal with: pecan thieves.

Daviet says tens of thousands of pounds of pecans are being stolen out of pecan orchards every week. So, like other local pecan farmers, Daviet says he has taken to carrying a gun around his farm.

"The most common thing is people coming literally in the middle of the night, shaking nuts out of trees, wrecking them up and then taking them out on their vehicle," he says.

Daviet has security guards and patrols who drive around his 250-acre farm day and night.

He takes pictures of visitors' driver's licenses. "I just don't like being so unfriendly, but unfortunately, I have to be."

Daviet says this is in good measure because farmers face fairly low margins, so if just 1 percent of his crop is stolen, it could be a third of his net income for the entire year.

He says pecan farmers met with the local sheriff's office in December to discuss the thefts.

Stealing hundreds of pounds of pecans is considered a felony, but the industry is working with politicians, law enforcement and the district attorney's office to pass more comprehensive laws to help prevent thefts.

"We've talked about trying to license the buying station, so that if you are buying pecans, you need to have been approved by our industry, know who you are, and you are not someone who is actively trying to buy stolen pecans."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

In Which Colin Firth Debunks Some Myths About Working With Woody Allen

Allen doesn't rehearse, and he isn't a big talker. But Firth pooh-poohs claims that he doesn't direct. He says Allen was a "very involved and meticulous director" while making Magic in the Moonlight.
NPR

Key Chain Blood-Alcohol Testing May Make Quantified Drinking Easy

Some of us now monitor our steps, sleep and calorie intake with wristbands and apps. So why not track blood alcohol levels? We explore the next frontier in the self-measurement movement.
NPR

'I Love Your Country,' New House Member Tells U.S. Officials

Rep. Curt Clawson, a Republican from Florida, tells subcommittee witnesses from two U.S. agencies, "I'm familiar with your country; I love your country."
NPR

Key Chain Blood-Alcohol Testing May Make Quantified Drinking Easy

Some of us now monitor our steps, sleep and calorie intake with wristbands and apps. So why not track blood alcohol levels? We explore the next frontier in the self-measurement movement.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.