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Quarles warns farmers to avoid hay-buying scam

Producers can protect themselves by spelling out details in writing

FRANKFORT (May 24, 2017) — Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles is cautioning area farmers to stay alert for possible scams targeting hay buyers and sellers.

“The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) has received several reports of fraudulent hay-buying activity in recent weeks,” Quarles said. “Farmers should take extra care to protect themselves from scam artists when buying or selling commodities such as hay or livestock, especially when contacted through email, social media, or text message.”

Warning signs of a possible scam may include:

• The buyer refuses to speak by telephone;

• The buyer proposes to mail the seller a check in excess of the negotiated price, then asks the seller to mail the extra amount in cash back to the buyer; or

• The buyer is vague about transportation arrangements.

“We urge anyone who believes they have been targeted by a scam to contact their local law enforcement agency or Kentucky State Police,” Quarles said. “If anyone needs assistance locating hay, please contact KDA’s Hay and Forage Testing Program at (502) 782-9210 or online at kyagr.com.”

KDA Forage Testing Program administrator Kim Field warned that some scammers have also posed as hay sellers, creating websites or online posts that mimic legitimate hay businesses. “These scams can be sophisticated,” Field said. “Telephone numbers that appear to be U.S.-based can be forwarded to unknown locations. Farmers should also vet charitable requests to donate hay or supplies for areas affected by natural disasters such as drought or wildfire.”

Field said farmers can limit their exposure to scams by having a contract that specifies:

• The name, address, and phone number of the buyer and seller;

• The type and quality of the hay;

• Whether the price will be set by total weight or number of bales;

• Logistics for shipping, including contact information and costs for pickup or delivery;

• How money will be exchanged between the buyer and seller; and

• What recourse the buyer has if the product is not as advertised (e.g., refund or replacement).

Kentucky farmers are encouraged to use KDA’s low-cost hay testing service. For a $10-per-lot fee, KDA will collect a sample and analyze the forage’s nutritional value. KDA also operates an online “Hay Hotline” service to connect hay buyers and sellers. Learn more at the Forage Testing Program webpage at kyagr.com.

Kentucky farmers produced 5.5 million tons of hay valued at $674 million in 2016.