NFU Mutual's rural affairs specialist Tim Price describes what the leading rural insurer is doing to help farmers beat the criminals threatening their businesses.
Today when I visit a farm it’s not the age-old topic of the weather that is the first talking point but rural crime.
The reason is that over the last 10 years rural crime has grown to become a constant worry for farmers, causing sleepless nights, anxiety and even leading to some giving up farming. Either farmers have had a break-in themselves – typically with a tractor or tools stolen - their neighbours have just had a break-in, or local sightings of gangs in white vans staking out farms for easy pickings are circulating in the neighbourhood.
As the insurer of three-quarters of the UK’s farms, NFU Mutual has a wealth of experience dealing with farmers’ theft claims - and as a mutual insurer which seeks to support its members as well as insure them - we have developed a range of initiatives to help farmers protect themselves from criminal attacks.
Our rural crime prevention strategy helps farmers tackle rural crime on three broad fronts:
1. Rural crime statistics
As the UK’s leading rural insurer our claims statistics provide a good reference for both the scale and cost of rural crime and are used by Government and police forces to shape the way they tackle crime in the countryside.
2. Supporting police
We fund a number of rural police initiatives and share our expertise. Great examples include the national agricultural vehicle security scheme - where our £600,000 funding and working partnership has helped reduce tractor thefts from a peak of £10.2m in 2010 to just over £5m last year.
We also support a successful Scotland-wide rural police initiative, helping train officers and coordinate theft recoveries.
Our latest initiative is ‘Ewe Hostels’ - a scheme which provides housing for livestock seized by police as evidence in sheep rustling cases which is helping bring livestock rustlers to justice.
3. Practical help for farmers
Our agricultural vehicle security specialist, Clive Harris, works tirelessly with police, tractor manufacturers and border forces - and also tours agricultural shows to help farmers find the right security measures to protect their farms. NFU Mutual’s Risk Management Services also helps farmers protect their farmyards and fields from the menace of rural crime.
Over the last three years, the cost of rural crime has remained stable after previous sharp rises. However, our long experience of rural crime shows that thieves don’t give up – they constantly seek new targets and ways to get round security measures. This means farmers face an ongoing battle to stay one step ahead of thieves – and we will be right beside them using our expertise to help them protect their farms, livestock and families.
Find out more about the challenges we have taken in order to do more for our communities by downloading our Responsible Business Report 2016 below.