For a while now, our staff has been working with the U.S. Marine Corps on a unique partnership. The Marine Corps is interested in creating buffers around its bases and training zones so that Marines can continue to train without bothering homes, businesses and schools. For example, Marine pilots have to practice a variety of maneuvers at low altitudes. Some maneuvers can’t be done safely in heavily populated areas where there are towers or other tall structures. But they can be — and are — done over open spaces.
The problem is that these open spaces — primarily farm and forest lands — are rapidly being turned into subdivisions and other developments. The Marine Corps and our department share concerns about the disappearance of open space, and that has opened up an opportunity to conserve farms and forests.
The Corps also has goals for using renewable fuels, and is interested in how farmers might be able to supply feedstocks for biofuels. I believe biofuels can provide another way for farmers to diversify and explore new sources of revenue. Locally, biofuels can help support family farms and small-town economies. Nationally, the biofuels industry can decrease America’s dependence on foreign fuel and increase national security.
Earlier this month, Maj. Gen. Carl Jensen, commanding general for Marine Corps bases on the East Coast, including those in North Carolina, came to Raleigh to continue our discussions and learn more about how our department can help with these initiatives.
Part of our meeting consisted of a visit to the State Farmers Market. The Corps is interested in making more locally produced food available to Marines and their families. One possible solution is the creation of farmers markets on bases. I accompanied Maj. Gen. Jensen as State Farmers Market Manager Ronnie Best gave a tour of the market and explained its many features.
Agriculture and the military are two of our state’s leading employers. It makes sense for us to work together on projects that would benefit North Carolina’s military and farm families, both of whom know a lot about commitment and sacrifice. Although we’ve still got a lot of work to do to hammer out details on joint initiatives, I am confident both the Marines and my staff will give it our best effort.