Cracking down on walnut thefts

FRESNO, Calif.

Fourth generation walnut farmer Doug Verboon says his 200-acre orchard gets hit by thieves every year.

Verboon said, "It happens a couple times a year, I've caught people actually stealing walnuts in my field I just take them ask them to pour them out. The sheriff has plenty to do than to come up and monitor my fields."

Verboon says what hurts more than the $3,000 loss every year. Is the violation from someone constantly trying to steal from your business. He's glad Kings County is now writing up an ordinance to prevent thefts and illegal sales of walnuts.

"What's amazing about it is someone can come up to your orchard at night and get about 2-3 sacks of walnuts and make $4-500 because walnuts are going for over a dollar a pound," said Verboon.

Kings County Ag Commissioner Tim Niswander says the new ordinance will make anyone carrying any amount of unprocessed walnuts, have written proof of ownership of the nuts. The ordinance will also ban the sale of walnuts during a specific harvest season, which is when many are stolen.

Growers say right now, people can steal the walnuts and simply sell them to someone at a stand near a farmer's market for hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Niswander said, "There are people in the business of buying remnant pieces from growers fields and what not and Butte County and Tulare County are two counties in the state that have ordinances."

Niswander says they'll likely model their walnut ordinance off of Tulare County's. The Tulare County Sheriff's office says since they started enforcing their ordinance last year, they've had no cases of walnut theft.

Kings County supervisors expect to have their first vote on the new ordinance next month.

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