Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Sunday, September 13, 2020
Baxter Black: Avocado Rustlers
Catching avocado rustlers is sort of a cross between the Covid virus, wildfires, exchange students bearing addictive goodies and coon hunting.
“All right, come down outta that tree and drop that avocado. Frisk him, Ken and don’t forget to check for lemons.”
In the southern California county of Ventura you will find the occasionally fractious co-mingling of densely populated residential areas and intensive orchard and truck farming. I’m sure there was a time when farmers gladly supplied their neighbors with enough lemons, strawberries and avocados to keep ‘em in guacomole and shortcake each growing season.
But as urban pressure increased, uninvited pickers began to take advantage. “I’m only takin’ two or three. They’ll never be missed.” Unfortunately it eventually became, “I’m only takin’ twelve hundred pounds. They can grow more.”
Farmers complained. They reported their losses but by the time it got to court the evidence had turned black and the district attorney’s office had bigger fish to fry. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my client, the defendant, is accused of stealing twelve avocados. He was having a party, wearin’ masks, of course. Safeway was ten miles away and it was two o’clock in the morning! C’mon get serious. We’re letting felonious shoplifters out on the street!”
The Farm Bureau organized and by working with the Sheriff’s department was finally able to convince the proper politicians that the once minor shoplifting of an avocado had grown into a thriving black market and was causing significant losses.
First they passed laws with teeth. Stealing avocados can be a felony punishable by up to one year in prison or $5,000.00.
They implemented a chain-of-evidence procedure that established a value on the stolen goods immediately so the avocados did not have to sit in the evidence room until the time of trial.
Farmers signed up with the National Property Registration Service, O. A. N. It enabled them to report a theft at 3:00 A.M. The sheriff’s office punched in their number which had been expanded to include explicit directions to any of the farmer’s groves. Reflective numbered markers, like street signs were posted at the exact locations. Sheriff’s deputies, including their canine corps and helicopter could then converge on the location in a matter of minutes.