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6/16/2014 Assembly approves larcenty of farm products legislation
STATE HOUSE -- Addressing the continued growth of farming and agricultural industries in Rhode Island, the General Assembly has passed legislation sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-District 37, New Shoreham, South Kingstown) and Rep. Samuel A. Azzinaro (D-Dist. 37, Westerly), to create a statue for the larceny of farm products and livestock.

Passed today and sent to the governor for his consideration was Senate bill 2014-S 2643A and House bill 2014-H 7619A, introduced in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General and at the request of the Rhode Island Farm Bureau. 

This legislation provides for a new criminal offense of larceny of a farm product.  Under the act, it would be unlawful for any person to steal a farm product that is the property of a farming operation, from the farm itself or the place where the farm product is sold. “Farm product" means goods used in a farming operation, including, but not limited to:  Crops grown, growing, or to be grown, including, but not limited to, crops produced on trees, vines, and bushes; and aquatic goods produced in aquacultural operations; livestock, born or unborn, including aquatic goods produced in aquacultural operations; supplies used or produced in a farming operation; or products of crops or livestock in their unmanufactured states.

Senator Sosnowski said, “As a farmer myself, I can appreciate the heavy impact felt by farmers when agricultural equipment is stolen. Theft of expensive farm equipment has ramifications on more than a farmer’s crops and livestock. It affects their very livelihoods, and the cost of goods for consumers.

“I am grateful to the Office of the Attorney General and the Farm Bureau for focusing on protecting the vitality of Rhode Island’s growing agricultural industry,” said Representative Azzinaro. “Farm theft is not just a prank, or some kids stealing pumpkins at Halloween. It is a serious matter for our state’s farmers, and enactment of this legislation will treat it with the seriousness it deserves.”

“Rhode Island’s farming industry continues to be a growth sector for our economy, and we need to protect our farms and the hard working men and women who have dedicated their lives to the land,” said Attorney General Kilmartin. “Farmers invest a great deal of time and effort working on their farming operation, if a theft occurs, not only have they lost their product or livestock, they have also lost the anticipated profits and large amount of effort for maintaining such operations.”

Under the legislation, individuals who steal a farm product whose wholesale value is $250 dollars or more would be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction, subject to imprisonment of up to five years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.  Individuals who steal a farm product whose wholesale value is under $250s would be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, subject to imprisonment of no more than one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.  For the purposes of the section, value means credible evidence that establishes the worth of the farm product on the day of the theft in comparison with a farm product of the same variety and weight.

Due to an increase in agricultural theft across the country, several states, including California, Georgia, Hawaii and Mississippi, have enacted legislation to address the problem.  According to the Nursery Growers Association of California, in 2006-2007, it was estimated that United States farmers lost $5 billion to agriculture theft.

For more information, contact:
Randall T. Szyba, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2457