Rising levels of crime in the countryside is costing the UK more than £44m a year, according to new figures.
A study reveals that crime in agricultural areas is now at its highest since 2013, with the Midlands one of the worst hit regions.
Estimates from NFU Mutual, which insures more than 75% of farms in the UK, shows the cost of thefts from rural homes, businesses and farms currently stands at £44.5m, an increase of 13.4% and the highest year-on-year rise since 2010.
The farming community is now calling for an overhaul of the way rural areas are policed.
It comes at a time when confidence in rural policing is low, with figures showing that 27% of people in the countryside believe their areas is not being policed properly.
Tim Price, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, told Sky News: “With police facing huge challenges – including budget cuts and extra workload – forces are finding it hard to resource rural policing and this may be one of the reasons for the rise in thefts we are seeing.
“What we’re seeing is much more determined thieves than we have seen in the past. They are organised, not just driving around and stealing if they see a chance.
“It is big organised crime and it is often linked to other serious crime such as money laundering, drugs and even human trafficking.”
Frustrated rural residents fear that serious crime is “hidden by a picture-postcard view of the countryside”, researchers were told.
Mark Steele farms cattle and other livestock in Tewksbury and said brazen thieves had stolen from him while he was working in nearby fields.
“We have had thefts in the middle of the day when we have been working. If we’re working in the fields, people have come in – it’s unlocked – and then steal from us.
“Over the last few years we have had a number of quadbikes and a large tractor stolen.
“We need to have a more proactive prosecution system to actually bring these criminals to justice.”
The NFU is now calling for an overhaul of rural policing strategy and warns that increased costs on farms will eventually impact on food prices.
“With 10.3 million people living in rural areas, these are trends we can no longer ignore,” said Mr Price.
By Nick Martin, Sky News correspondent