Agricultural machinery and equipment theft – NFU response

13 July 2023

An image of someone breaking a padlock on a door

The NFU has responded to a call for evidence from the Home Office on the Equipment Theft (Prevention) Bill, which included a consultation on extending the Bill’s remit to other large agricultural equipment and power tools.

The NFU has been working together with Greg Smith MP on the Bill, aimed at giving the Home Secretary new powers to make regulations that deter the theft and resale of Quads and ATVs (All-Terrain Vehicles).

We have responded to the call for evidence with some of the technical detail that NFU advisers researched to help with the drafting of the Bill.

The NFU is particularly interested in more powers to combat the current surge in the theft of removable GPS (Global Positioning Service) systems and will support a requirement for these units to be forensically marked to discourage resale and assist police investigations.

The NFU is interested to hear feedback from members on the proposals for this Bill and has gathered member feedback to help inform its response. 

13 July 2023

Consultation closed

This consultation has now closed.

10 July 2023

NFU submits its response

The NFU has submitted its response which is summarised below:

ATVs (All-Terrain Vehicles)

The Bill suggests that “mechanically propelled machinery designed or adapted primarily for use in agricultural activities; designed or adapted primarily for use other than on a road” will be required to be fitted with an immobiliser, forensically marked, and registered on a database.

The NFU agreed with this definition and suggested that the term ATV will include quad bikes and side-by-side utility vehicles without inadvertently capturing machinery it would not be appropriate to include.

The NFU proposed the following definitions that could serve as a legal definition of an ATV:

A mechanically propelled, sit-astride all-terrain vehicle which:

  • is primarily constructed or adapted for use off road
  • has an engine capacity of at least 250cc or 2kw
  • has been designed to travel on a minimum of three low-pressure tyres or is full or partially tracked
  • has a seat designed to be used and straddled by a single operator, or a single operator and passenger
  • has handlebars for steering control

Or, a mechanically propelled, utility side-by-side all-terrain vehicle which:

  • is primarily constructed or adapted for use off road
  • has an engine capacity of at least 250cc or 2 kw
  • has a minimum of three wheels or is full or partially tracked
  • is capable of carrying two or more occupants

We stressed that ATVs are essential pieces of equipment for farm businesses and have become indispensable tools on many farms. The theft of an ATV isn’t just an issue of the machine’s value or replacement cost, but the impact on the business operations such as checking livestock and crops.

A shortage in new and second-hand agricultural machinery has also fuelled a surge in quad theft from farms across the country, with global supply chain problems, shipping delays and the impact of Covid and Brexit having contributed to waiting lists for new ATVS and increased demand for second-hand kit.

The NFU carried out extensive research during the early stages of the Bill, in discussions with Greg Smith MP, and following discussions with insurers, the Agricultural Engineers Association and the Construction Equipment Association produced recommendations on how a database could be established and managed to aid police in investigating these thefts.

GPS (Global Positioning Systems)

The Call for Evidence also called for opinions on a requirement for GPS units used on agricultural machinery to be forensically marked and registered on a database.

We supported the proposals for forensic marking and registration of GPS units as a deterrent to this type of theft and to aid police investigations.

We highlighted that GPS units are becoming essential items of farm equipment, used to provide precision positioning for cultivation and harvesting operations on farms across the world. GPS has become one of the most targeted pieces of farm equipment because of their high cost and portability.

NFU Mutual has reported that the cost of high-value GPS theft doubled in the first four months of 2023 compared to same period in the previous year. These figures reveal the cost of GPS theft exceeded £500,000 during this period.

The busy harvest season has previously been disrupted by thefts of farm technology, including essential GPS technology, impacting the farm business and potentially food security.

The NFU is aware that police investigations can recover stolen units, but it if it is not marked it can be difficult to prove they are stolen, and it is then difficult to return the equipment to the owner. Forensic marking and registration will act as a deterrent to thieves and help police investigations.

23 May 2023

NFU responds to the Call for Evidence

The NFU will respond to the call for evidence with some of the technical detail that NFU advisers researched to help with the drafting of the Bill.

Key features of the Bill

The purpose of the Equipment Theft (Prevention) Bill is to prevent the theft of machinery and equipment used by the agricultural sector, in particular quad bikes and ATVs (All-Terrain Vehicles).

It provides a power for the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring immobilisers and forensic marking to be fitted as standard to all new quad bikes and ATVs. The regulations will define the minimum standard that will apply to immobilisers and forensic marking.

The Bill requires immobilisers and forensic marking to be fitted or applied before equipment is sold to the customer. In practice this is likely to take place at the dealership or store, but it could be done during the manufacturing process.

In addition, there will be a requirement for the seller to maintain a record of the buyer from the date of sale for a specified period of time, likely to be 10 years. This record will assist police to identify and prove ownership of stolen ATVs and other equipment once recovered.

The Bill also provides a power for the Home Secretary to extend the provisions to other equipment designed or adapted primarily for use in agricultural or commercial activities. The Bill applies to England and Wales.

NFU Next Generation forum chair, Eveey Hunter, has written about how the theft of GPS units can have a massive impact on a farm business. Read her story: How one young farmer is using her voice to combat criminals

18 May 2023

Home office launches consultation

The Home Office has launched a Call for Evidence, inviting stakeholders to give their views on the following areas of the Equipment Theft (Prevention) Bill:

  • the definition of ATVs and agricultural equipment
  • a requirement for removable Global Positioning Service (GPS) systems to be forensically marked
  • the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) threshold of tools to be marked
  • specifications of immobilisers, and any implications for type approval
  • specifications for forensic markings
  • specifications for registration on databases

You can read and respond to the consultation in full at: GOV.UK | Equipment Theft (Prevention) Bill: Call for evidence

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  • 18 May: The Home Office launches a consultation on the proposals put forward by the Equipment Theft (Prevention) Bill – aimed at giving the Home Secretary new powers to tackle the resale and theft of farm equipment
  • 23 May: NFU seeks member views to help inform its response.
  • 10 July: NFU submits its response