Diesel thieves target Calif. farmers

Police: More than $300K worth of diesel fuel stolen in last 3 months


"It's crazy; the world is crazy," Fortin told CNN affiliate WDIV. "They will take [a cordless drill] and drill a hole in h[the gas tank]. They either put a pan under there or stick a hose in there. They sit on the side with a can and dump the fuel out."

Replacing a punctured gas tank could cost anywhere from $300 to $500 on passenger cars.

"Not only do you lose your fuel, now you have to repair your gas tank," Reed said.

Although gas is also being stolen in Kern County, Reed says, the main target right now is diesel on farms.

The diesel heists just add to the misery of weary San Joaquin Valley farmers, including Belluomini, who have been hit by metal thieves who mined their farms for the copper in the irrigation systems.

"The problem ... some farmers are facing is, they couldn't turn on their [irrigation] pumps last summer because of the copper theft," Reed explained. "This summer, they can't turn on their pumps because they stole the diesel. What's next? Are they going to steal the pumps?"

Reed says most of the metal and diesel thieves are drug addicts who rip off anything they can to turn it around for fast cash to buy more narcotics, especially methamphetamine. Most of the metal is bought by scrap yards.

Soft-spoken Pete Belluomini, who is the former president of the Kern County Farm Bureau, is angry and wants people to understand the challenges of modern-day farming.

"I have enough to worry about. 'Is it going to be hot [or] cold? Is the wind going to blow?' " Belluomini said. "Now you have to start worrying about, 'Is everything locked, bottled up and capped off?'

"All we're trying to do is provide a good product to the consumer and make a living."