Ag News -
Regional Ag News
Monday, 23 April 2012 18:33
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Indiana farmers are having fewer troubles with anhydrous ammonia thieves as police say methamphetamine makers are turning to methods that use ingredients other than the dangerous fertilizer.
Those looking to make the illegal drug in recent years often targeted farmers' large tanks of ammonia, often leading to large leaks of the chemical. But such thefts have become less common with more meth makers using the so-called one-pot or shake-and-bake method that doesn't use large amounts of anhydrous ammonia like the old meth labs often needed, Warrick County Sheriff Brett Kruse told the Evansville Courier & Press for a story Monday (http://bit.ly/JKZlHI ).
"They're not stealing much anhydrous — they don't have to," Kruse said.
Kruse said the one-pot method eliminates the need to extract anhydrous from one of the field tanks, from which the chemical shoots out in an ultracold temperature that freeze-dries skin. It is not explosive, but it can suffocate.
So-called shake-and-bake meth also can be dangerous. It's produced by combining raw, unstable ingredients in a 2-liter soda bottle. But if the person mixing the noxious brew makes the slightest error, such as removing the cap too soon or accidentally perforating the plastic, the concoction can explode, searing flesh and causing permanent disfigurement, blindness or even death.
The change in production methods hasn't led to a reduction in meth lab discoveries in the state. Indiana State Police reported 1,437 lab seizures across the state for 2011 — up slightly from a year earlier and third most in the country behind Missouri and Tennessee.
The Posey County Co-op in Poseyville sells anhydrous ammonia for $860 a ton and distributes it in mobile tanks that hold four to six tons. It hasn't had theft troubles so far this year, co-op manager Eric Wiseman said.
"Before, we'd lock the gates and there was no way for police to get in here," Wiseman said. "This year, we backed off on our security and we haven't had any problems at all."
Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock said most farmers still go out of their way to protect their anhydrous supply. He said the wave of ammonia thefts farmers faced a few years ago was a hard lesson.
"But even then, we still may have a few remote farmers who get hit," Villwock said. "It's definitely a challenge."
Randy Kron of northern Vanderburgh County, who farms about 2,000 acres in the area, said the fight to protect the ammonia isn't as much to prevent the loss of what the meth cooks may take, but to prevent costly leaks.
The amount a meth cook will take equals $11, but the loss of the rest of the chemical leaking out of the tank is about $3,400. The cost to repair the hoses hooked to the tank also can reach $1,000.
"It can get expensive," Kron said. "That's why we had to get smarter."