By Kristin Platts

Farm News Editor

Downtown Modesto recycler Modesto Junk Co. understands some of the big issues facing the ag community today. The company closely supported California State Senator Tom Berryhill on his 2008 metal theft bill, AB 844, and most recently, has been selected as one of just a few sites in the valley where farmers and ranchers can bring in their old ag equipment under the Tractor Trade-in Replacement Program being offered by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD), an organization that works to improve air quality in the Valley.

Through the program, the local recycler, which has been in business in Modesto since 1920, will have the opportunity to further assist farmers, ranchers and others in the agricultural community.

“We now have the latest equipment to disassemble and scrap these old tractors so that we can be sure they will never be used again,” said Jeff Highiet, Director of Operation for Modesto Junk Co. “The older units get scrapped, the new units are put in to use, and we all get to breathe a bit easier. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The goal of the tractor replacement program is to get older, higher air polluting off-road agricultural equipment out of operation; in turn, owners of relinquished pieces of equipment are financially compensated by the SJVAPCD on the purchase of their new machines. Those with off-road ag equipment and tractors get paid by horsepower on their new purchases once the SJVAPCD has verified that their older machine has been scrapped out.

The program works similar to another recent government assistance program, Cash-for-Cars, explained Jeff’s son Keith Highiet, who serves as Operations Manager Assistant for the company.

“Because it’s for those with off-road agricultural equipment, the benefit has some pretty big economic impact in our area, being mainly agricultural-based,” Keith said.

According to Keith, the company is fully prepared to handle tractor disassembly with ease thanks to its newest piece of equipment, the CAT 365C hydraulic rotating shear, which is the only one of its kind on the west coast. After operating for just three weeks, the machine has already proven its worth.

“The new equipment is able to cut up scrap material in fifty to seventy-five percent less time than with the older, non-rotating traditional shear,” he said.

Metal monitoring

Modesto Junk Co. continues to stay on top of the ever-growing metal theft issue, according to Keith, and has in place a stringent monitoring system of all scrap that comes into the facility for recycling.

“When it comes to buying metal, we are very proactive in implementing and enforcing the metal theft laws at our business,” he said.

And the company is no stranger to what farmers face with metal thieves, having become a metal theft target itself until they invested in multi-camera 24-hour video surveillance, raised and added thicker steel fencing around the property and hired 24-hour on-site security.

As far as monitoring who brings metal into the facility, individual licenses are kept on file for customers who are non-businesses and non-contractors, selling non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, brass, copper and stainless steel, Keith explained.

California law now requires a three-day waiting period on metal recycling payments, a customer photograph with the metals they bring in, a copy of their driver’s license or ID, vehicle license plate number and address recorded, and thumb printing. Keith noted that Modesto Junk Co. always goes further if they are suspicious of a customer bringing scrap through their doors.

“In addition to adhering to this law, which we fully supported and helped Assemblyman Berryhill pass into California law in 2008, we go further with customers we don’t know or have suspicions about,” he said. “We interrogate them, ask them how they came about their material, and call and verify.”

With a high number of customers in the farming and ranching community, Keith added that Modesto Junk Co. wants to buy scrap metal from them directly, not from thieves.

“We have a natural incentive to work to protect them [farmers] through our diligence,” he said. “Regardless, it’s the right thing to do. We just wished more in the scrap industry felt the same, and were as proactive as we are.”

Farmers and ranchers interested in participating in the Tractor Trade-In Program are encouraged to contact the SJVAPCD at (209) 557-6400 or at

You can visit Modesto Junk Co.’s website at

Modesto Junk Co. recently acquired a CAT 365C hydraulic rotating shear attachment, the only one of its kind on the west coast.<photo courtesy Modesto Junk Co.>
Modesto Junk Co. recently acquired a CAT 365C hydraulic rotating shear attachment, the only one of its kind on the west coast. <photo courtesy Modesto Junk Co.>
The article was published in the print edition of the Stanislaus Farm News in June of 2011, and was posted on June 9, 2011, on the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau’s facebook page.