Food & Fuels Program Manager
Eastern North Carolina is losing thousands of acres of working lands to development or conversion each year. This rapidly accelerating problem presents both an economic threat and a cultural threat to the rural character of the entire region. The region’s largest industry, agriculture, depends heavily upon the availability of these working lands for its continued viability. A lesser known fact is that the region’s second largest industry, the military sector, is also heavily dependent upon the availability of working lands and open spaces near its installations and in the surrounding communities in order for it to survive.
Military installations are unique in that their usefulness for the nation’s defense is largely dependent upon their ability to provide their service members with the facilities, work spaces, training ranges, aviation flight routes, vehicles and equipment necessary to train to conduct military operations overseas. Military airbases such as Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Wayne County or Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Craven County, for example, need to limit construction and development near their installations that would present airborne hazards (like radio towers, high-rise buildings) or safety hazards (large, high-density residential apartments or condominiums) where continued flight operations would present an unacceptable risk to the lives of persons living beneath routine flight patterns, etc. These types of installations also require flight routes over large open spaces and low-light conditions at night in order to train for missions overseas. Without limits on incompatible development near these installations and access to hazard-free flight routes, these bases can no longer effectively train their military personnel and subsequently can no longer meet the needs of our nation’s defense. Without the open spaces and low-light conditions that exist in the region, the military cannot perform its aviation training mission necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of our forces when they are sent into harm’s way. The end result is the eventual closing of those bases incapable of performing their training responsibilities and reassignment of thousands of military jobs to other states.
PlanIt EAST’s delegates are continually looking for projects that can be undertaken that will directly or indirectly guard against these losses and be of benefit to both industries and to the communities that they support.
The Food & Fuel for the Forces Program (FF4F) is a regional partnership between the agricultural community, the military, local governments, economic developers and environmental interests. FF4F is intended to add value to the agricultural product of the PlanIt EAST region by helping to better integrate the military market for food and fuel with the ability of the regional grower to provide these products. The innovative program will provide new jobs as local farmers, fishermen, and foresters will be able to add staff to support orders from a reliable, high volume customer. Additionally, this program will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated in the region. FF4F is further separated into two sub-programs.
Food for the Forces
This vital component of FF4F will help determine the degree to which regional production and consumption match. By evaluating what is produced and consumed (by the U.S. military customer and others) and then taking steps to better align the supply and demand, growers in the PlanIt EAST region will see increased financial opportunities. Demand that is not being met by local suppliers will be identified as new opportunities. The final part of the program will be to identify distribution systems, procurement processes or legislative improvements necessary to overcome barriers and improve the integration of agriculture supply and military demand within the region.
Fuel for the Forces
The fuel portion of FF4F is developed around the national security imperative calling for renewable energy to replace imported oil. It focuses on the aggressive goals and mandates that have been placed on the armed services to buy and use these fuels. This program will develop opportunities for our region’s farmers and foresters to provide products that can be converted into energy for either power generation or as liquid fuels. Finding crops that promise good returns to the farmers and developing the pathways for new energy crops from the farms, through the transformation process to the end users, are the program’s major goals.
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