The recent theft of a massive quantity of corn feed from a central Alabama mill underscores why farmers should take special safeguards against farm theft, especially in these hard economic times, cautions one expert.

In an incident vaguely reminiscent of “Kelly’s Heroes,”  a 1970 movie in which a handful of World War II GI’s steal a truckload of gold from an occupied French village virtually under the German’s noses, a clutch of thieves managed to steel some $175,000 worth of feed corn from an Alabama mill — the equivalent of 25 tractor trailer loads, according to investigators.

Investigators also estimate that Koch Foods feed mill, where the theft occurred, located off Highway 21 in Talladega, sustained some $80,000 in property damage.

Investigators suspect employees may have been involved.

The thefts appear to have taken place between early December  2011, and late April 2012.

So what could thieves possibly do with 25 tractor trailer loads of feed corn?

Plenty, says one economist.

In lean economic times farm commodities typically offer prize pickings — the reason why farmers, cattlemen and even forestland owners should take special precaution to safeguard against theft, advises Max Runge, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System economist.

He says only two factors are required for a farm commodity to appear lucrative to thieves: its high value and an easy way to dispose of the commodity. Feed corn qualifies on both counts.

“The possibility of theft is always a viable option when these two factors are in play,” Runge says. “For instance, feed corn comes in pretty handy if they or someone else raises steers, hogs or some other animals.”