Authorities continue to look for those responsible for the theft of a large amount of farm chemicals from a business in southwest Iowa. Last Friday, someone posing as a member of a buyer’s group from Minnesota purchased 200-thousand dollars worth of weed killers from Wickman Chemical, near Atlantic. That evening, someone came to pick up, and pay for, the seven-thousand pounds of liquid chemicals. Erich Wickman, the owner of Wickman Chemical, describes him as a young man in his early 20s. He says the man was about 6-1, 160 pounds…and was driving a gray Dodge pickup that was pulling a 12-by-8 bumper-hitch trailer. Wickman says he doesn’t know if the young man who picked up the chemicals knew he was involved in a theft. The man paid for the chemicals with a 200-thousand dollar check, that was later proved to be bogus. While that may seem like a lot of money, Wickman says they deal with some three-thousand customers in 32 states, and have done deals of that size in the past, though there were red flags that should have been noticed. Wickman says the operation that bought the chemicals — Minnesota Marketing, from Morris, Minnesota — was a slick operation that provided financial information and paperwork, and even had license numbers for farmers who had supposedly purchased the chemicals. Wickman says the weed killers — Select, Callisto and Capture — would not be used to make a bomb and do not pose any kind of a security risk, though coming in contact with them could cause skin or eye irritation. Wickman Chemical is offering a 50-thousand dollar reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the theft. The Cass County Sheriff’s Office is working with state and local law enforcement agencies, including the Iowa DCI and the FBI, to try and track down those responsible.I.S.U. Extension agronomist Mike Owen says this is NOT the kind of farm chemical a thief might use to make a bomb, or illegal drugs.These are herbicides used for controlling weeds in corn and soybeans, he says, and “from a toxicological perspective,” they’re safe and not poisonous by their nature, so nothing about them is going to create a security risk. Owen says the criminals probably plan to resell the chemicals, which are genuine brand-name farm products.Ag chemical theft isn’t that uncommon, though he says it’s less a problem than it was in the 1980s and nineties because the herbicides we’re using now are larger in volume per acre. Back then he says chemicals were extremely concentrated. When we were using herbicides that were active at fractions of an ounce per acre, you could put “several hundred-thousand-dollars worth of herbicide in your trunk,” and there was a lot of breaking-and-entering crime at farm supply stores by thieves stealing chemicals.
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