By Ian Schwartz

YUBA COUNTY (CBS13) — Yuba County is hoping a new set of laws will help protect farmers from rampant walnut thefts.

Crops worth hundreds of thousands of dollars have been stolen over the last two years.

Thieves come looking for the nuts when they’re ready to come off the trees.

“You have folks that will back up a pickup out in an orchard where the crop is prepared to be harvested off of the ground and shovel stuff into a pick up,” said farmer Donald Norene.

He says a truck filled with unprocessed nuts could fetch more than $10,000. Some farmers have had to hire additional security guards and put up fences at processing plants to protect their investment.

Now, Yuba County is proposing an ordinance requiring anyone buying or selling more than 25 pounds of walnuts to have a proof of ownership certificate saying where and when they go them.

The rule would target thieves who sell the stolen crop on the side of the road during harvest season.

Norene says walnuts thefts are similar to copper or scrap metal thefts—crooks can steal them then sell them to a buyer who likely knows the crop is stolen. Those tougher laws, he says, will help since there’s only so much he can do to protect hundreds of acres of his crop.

“People know you’re paying attention, they are less likely to come bother you,” he said. “But we can’t stay up 24 hours a day.”

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