Legislation would make theft of produce a crime

CORN FARMER: Despite having been a victim of crop theft recently, Ernest Wusstig hopeful that whoever took his harvest will be caught. His sweet corn truck can be seen in front of The Guam Army National Guard Headquarters in Barrigada. Wusstig is usually there from noon to 5 p.m. Kevin Milan/The Guam Daily Post

Thieves who steal produce from farmers could face criminal prosecution if a pair of proposed measures become law.

Sen. Clynton Ridgell introduced Bill No. 62-36 and Bill No. 63-36 in collaboration with Vice Speaker Tina Muña Barnes and the Department of Agriculture.

Ridgell said he worked with multiple farmers on how best to address the issue of agricultural theft.

The first bill would ensure that agricultural products are considered property in Guam’s theft laws, and mandates that farmers who are victims of agricultural theft be reimbursed by the defendant after being convicted.

The second bill would require all farmers who engage in the sale of agricultural product to be registered with the Department of Agriculture in an effort to prevent businesses from buying produce from non-registered farmers as well as prevent thieves from profiting off of stolen crops.

“I think first, we have to make it illegal to steal produce, and then we have to prevent stolen produce from being sold. That’s precisely what these two bills do,” said Ridgell.

“It is abundantly clear that our farmers deserve this added protection. Decades of disregard will be corrected, and Guam’s farms will now receive protection and reparations through the criminal justice system,” said Chelsa Muña-Brecht, director of the Guam Department of Agriculture.

“As we look at promoting new industries, we must ensure that we must also protect those that produce for Guam,” said Vice Speaker Tina Muña Barnes.

It was nearly one week ago, approximately $1,000 in sweet corn was stolen from the fields at Island View Farms in Dededo. Owner Ernest Sablan Wusstig spoke to The Guam Daily Post about the theft. He had since reached out to the community for assistance to help him find the thieves. He also said he supports stricter laws that would place a harsher punishment on thieves.


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