If the catalytic converter is stolen from your vehicle, there's little you can do other than file an insurance claim and pay a hefty deductible.

Even if the thief is caught, it's difficult to prove ownership of the converter because there are no identifying marks on the pollution control devices. Until now.

Bird's Auto in Pine Island and the Goodhue County Sheriff's Office have teamed up to etch vehicle license plate numbers onto converters still in cars. The hope is that the identifying mark will make it harder for a thief to sell the part to a scrap dealer.

Goodhue Sheriff's Community Engagement Deputy Jenny Hofschulte said she stole the idea from similar programs used by California police departments.

Bird's Auto owner Jason Andrist has had customers come in with missing converters. Replacing the device can run up to more than $1,000.

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“I think people are shocked when they hear that this is happening," he said.

Catalytic converters are pollution control devices that contain small amount of precious metals that make the devices prime targets for thieves.

The initial event was so successful that the Sheriff's Office is partnering with auto repair shops all over Goodhue County. The etching is free with any paid service.

Find more information on the Goodhue County Sheriff's Office Facebook page. Thumbs-up to the Goodhue County Sheriff's Office and Bird's Auto for finding a way to address converter thefts.

Heron rookery is for the birds

Plans to turn wooded property in Rochester Township into 10 suburban lots have been put on hold. About a quarter of the 30-acre parcel includes a great blue heron nesting site, called a rookery, that neighbors and others say needs saving.

The Olmsted County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 to wait until May 18 to determine whether the land, owned by Steve Connelly, could be developed.

Leal Segura, a neighbor to the property, said a petition with 1,142 signatures was submitted to the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, with nearly 700 Olmsted County residents signing the document seeking an environmental assessment.

Community members are also researching options to obtain a portion of the land to preserve the nesting site, about a quarter of which sits on the Connelly property.

The county board’s delay likely won’t provide enough time for the environmental assessment or for the neighbors to secure a preservation plan, since a decision must be made by June 17, according to Senior Assistant County Attorney Tom Canan.

Without action, the proposed general development plan would automatically be approved.

Thumbs-up to the Olmsted County Board for taking the time to give the public's concerns a thorough vetting.

Staying on the farm

Minnesota's farmers are getting older.

According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, 59.13% of farmers in Minnesota were 55 or older. That's up from 38.62% in 2002 and 33.71% just 20 years before that.

Kevin Paap, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, said that Minnesota "sort of lost a generation" of farmers during the farm crisis of the 1980s.

Technology has helped keep older farmers working, and capital gains taxes have made passing farms to younger generations a financial nightmare.

Generational land transfer, getting parents to retire, getting younger farmers into the business — are all barriers for aging in place. Thumbs-down to the hurdles facing retiring farmers.