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Paynesville Press - March 16, 2005

Meth makers seek anhydrous from farms

The spring planting season means increased danger of thefts from anhydrous ammonia tanks to produce methamphetamine.

A significant amount of meth is produced locally in meth labs. These labs are located in isolated or abandoned farm buildings, homes, cabins, or even in vehicles such as vans, trailers, or old campers. One popular method for producing the drug involves using anhydrous ammonia, a fertilizer used to grow corn and other crops. Anhydrous ammonia is stolen from tanks in fields or on farm sites

Meth-related drug charges in Minnesota increased by 800 percent over the past five years -- reaching 5,071 cases in 2004. And in Minnesota prisons, the number of meth offenders has doubled in less than two years, said Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County attorney, in a recent article.

This extremely addictive drug is devastating to users, accounting for hundreds of emergency room visits and countless shattered lives. We can only guess at how many children have been neglected by meth-addicted parents - or endangered by toxic home meth labs. The drug also has wide-ranging impacts on the environment, the economy and social services, Gaertner wrote.

Farmers have an important role in the fight against meth, according to John Shutske, agricultural health and safety specialist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. Shutske has these suggestions to help you prevent the theft of anhydrous ammonia on your property

*Try not to leave anhydrous ammonia nurse tanks sitting around in fields or on the farmstead. Plan ahead so that tanks are delivered to the field right before they're needed.

*Lab operators need very little ammonia to make their product. On the black market, anhydrous might be worth $100 to $1,000 per gallon.

*Think carefully about the best place for storing nurse tank before taking one overnight. Ask the fertilizer dealer about the best storage location, or consult with the local police department or county sheriff. Both are partners in prevention of anhydrous theft.

*Be alert for signs of tampering. Important indicators include strange footprints or partially opened tank valves. Or items may be left behind after theft such as buckets, coolers, duct tape, hoses, clamps, or bicycle inner tubes. If you notice any of these, do not approach the tank, and contact local law enforcement officials immediately.

*Monitor all areas of the property including remote and abandoned buildings and vehicles. Help keep an alert eye on the property of elderly neighbors, or those who live elsewhere. Anyone noticing anything suspicious should contact law enforcement officials.

*Never enter any area where you suspect that a meth lab may be or was located. The residue is highly toxic. It's also important to law enforcement personnel that evidence not be disturbed.

*Property owners beware! If a meth lab is discovered on your property, the cost cleanup costs can easily exceed $10,000 and you're responsible.

For more information, check online at for a more detailed article by Shutske on how farmers can help win the meth fight.

(Source: the University of Minnesota Extension Service)

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