SMITHFIELD — The golden leaf is as good as gold to some area thieves, and some are going to extreme measures to turn that gold into dollars.
Johnston County farmer Donnie Watkins lost thousands of dollars worth of tobacco to thieves late last week. Now, Johnston County sheriff's deputies are worried that it could mean more crimes to come.
Watkins found ten sheets of tobacco leaves missing. One sheet holds about 200 pounds of leaves, which means Watkins lost about $3,000 worth of product.
Even though tobacco theft is difficult to trace, police say they do have a few leads.
Foriest Mills runs the Farmers Tobacco Warehouse in Smithfield. He told WRAL-TV5's Bret Baier that thieves have to have connections in order to make any money stealing tobacco.
Smith says it's highly possible that farmers having a bad season could either steal tobacco themselves or buy stolen tobacco, then claim it as a part of their own quota.
For farmers preparing to bring their tobacco to market, Smith says try not to leave tobacco on trucks overnight. If you must, he says, try to park where someone can keep an eye on it.