Lee Hein

Lee Hein

Getting caught stealing a horse was a serious crime in the wild west. A small group of Iowa legislators has been mulling the idea of tougher penalties for modern day cattle rustlers, pig thieves and corn snatchers.

Representative Lee Hein raises livestock and grain on a farm near Monticello and he says, unfortunately, it’s far easier to catch a car thief than to catch someone who’s stolen agricultural commodities.

“You always count everything going into the yard and then as we sell them, we count them going out,” Hein says, “And there’s been times when I’ve probably been short maybe 10-15 hogs and I wonder: ‘Did you miscount or did somebody slip in there at night and load a load up and is gone with it.”

Hein first considered establishing a minimum prison sentence for those caught stealing livestock or corn and beans, but he’s now considering other options. And He’s not sure whether the bill he’s trying to craft will survive this Friday’s deadline to pass a House committee.

“But the biggest thing I want is to let agriculture understand that this is a bigger issue than what I realized,” Hein says. “Maybe we need to start figuring up ways to put up cameras or start lockimg things up way tighter.”

2011 is the most recent year for which data is available and there were more convictions in Iowa that year for stealing livestock or grain than for car theft.