AGRICULTURE campaigner Liz Webster has highlighted the cost to farmers of theft.

Although the county saw a 19 per cent drop in the crime, food producers - many of them in isolated locations - are still suffering, she said.

A tractor mower was the latest bit of equipment taken from her family's farm at Water Eaton recently.

“We had some pieces of farm machinery stolen. And our neighbour had a quad bike stolen," she said.

“The problem is getting hold of the police is difficult. It’s not seen as anything significant - you just get given a crime number to claim on your insurance. There’s no effort to counter these criminal gangs at all.

“It is tough because we’re isolated. And you do feel vulnerable especially if people know that we’ve got machinery that’s expensive and that’s got a high market value, so you do feel as if you’re on your own. The tractor mower cost £6,000 to replace.”

She said Wiltshire Police needs more funding to tackle the issue. “We are one of the lowest funded forces in the country. We’ve got real challenges with Swindon and county lines.”

Insurers NFU Mutual revealed that rural theft cost the county £865,000 in 2020.

Det Sgt Greg Fergusson of the rural crime team said: “Rural crime has fallen during the lockdown periods over the past year.

“However, what we have seen is a shift from theft of larger equipment, such as livestock, tractors and loaders, to smaller items such as GPS systems and quad bikes that can more easily be transported.

“Livestock theft is still a problem, but it has been harder to move animals around the country as there have been fewer vehicles on the road.

“Any theft can have a big impact on local communities, insurance premiums and food prices.

"Modern farming methods use GPS for gathering data about soil and to monitor crop conditions and many farms have quad bikes.

“To combat such crimes, we work closely with land owners, neighbouring police forces and rural communities and organisations who provide valuable intelligence."