Monday, January 22, 2007

'Running scared' on the OLF

Fred Howell and his family raise winter wheat, soybeans and corn on several thousand acres of prime farmland near the rural community of Pinetown in northeastern North Carolina’s Beaufort County. A lot of their land would wind up in the Navy’s hands as part of an outlying landing field the Navy wants to use to train pilots to land F/A-18F Super Hornets on aircraft carriers.
Fred and his brothers Glenn and Wilt, their father and a son and nephew want to keep farming. But they won’t be able to buy replacement farmland for what the Navy is willing to pay to take their land. And the uncertainty is tearing the family up.
“It keeps you running scared,” Howell said the other day during a tour of the proposed OLF near the Washington-Beaufort county line. His family has already gone through one huge upheaval. Back in the 1950s, Fred’s dad moved the family from Laurinburg near the N.C.-S.C. border to northeastern North Carolina.
There the family started a wood business, making parts for the N.C. furniture industry. They’d harvest furniture-grade hardwood, cut out rough table legs and ship them to furniture factories for finishing. But as the global market place changed and as federal trade policy led to such things as NAFTA, the wood business turned sour for the Howells.
Then the family borrowed and invested tons of money in equipment to develop their small grains and farm, and gradually did well. But it took the whole family working all the time, Fred says.
“My daddy didn’t believe we ought to work but 24/7,” he said. “We didn’t have much time for social things or sports. We were always working. And if you didn’t have anything to do for a few minutes,” he said with a smile, “you were supposed to stand there and strain.”
When the Navy sent an agent to make an offer for the land, he said, the money wasn’t enough to let the family stay in business. His father, a patriotic man, didn’t want to tell the Navy no if there was absolutely other place to train pilots. “My daddy told the man, ‘If you don’t have any other place to put the OLF, you can have our land.’”
But none of the Howells believe the Navy has no other alternative. Most folks in the region believe there are better places that won’t risk collisions with the large migratory waterfowl that spend up to six months of each year in their fields and the nearby Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. One is in Carteret County, another near Vanceboro. There’s also space near the Marine air station at Cherry Point.
But the Howells may not have any say in the matter. If a federal court rules that the Navy has followed the dictates of federal law in examining the environmental impacts of the OLF, then chances are the Navy will proceed – and it won’t be long before the jets are flying there.
The Howells could stay and rent land from the Navy and switch crops, Fred Howell says, but the rents would be high and they won’t be able to afford to buy equipment to farm cotton or some other commodity that won’t provide food for the waterfowl. “It would be like cutting a leg off if they took our land,” he says.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

These family farmers are the back bone of America. The ones that feed our families and our wildlife. The beauty of nature that is in this region is breath-taking.

Our government continues to waste millions of dollars on a project that will not work. This ill-conceived proposed outlying landing field needs to be stopped immediately.

If you remove the farmers, along with their food resources from this region, it will not only hurt the farmers and homeowners, but will also take away a huge feeding resource that the wildlife.

Just three and half miles away is a global national wildlife refuge, which in the winter home approxiately 6 months out of the year for over 100,000 waterfowl.

You will not travel far without seeing an abundants of wildlife from the deer, to the waterfowl,to the black bear, and if you are lucky you will even catch a glime of the endangered red wolf.

There is another night-mare that lurks around the corner, our military training pilot and the community will be places in harmsway.

Just ask any pilot about the high risk of flying in a mix of tundra swains and snow geese or birds in general.

Just this past week-end, a military jet crashed by a bird strike.

The Navy has never had to deal with this large amount of waterfowl.

This is a walk-up call to America!

Anonymous said...

Jack,

Our hats off to you.

Go Kevin and never stop fighting for your freedom. What a brave young man.

You should have the right to choose your future, along with the rest of the youth that you so bravely spoke for.

Go Kevin, we are rooting for you and will help you and the community send the message to DC.

Anonymous said...

In all reality our government is essentially treating the American farmer the same way they treated the American Indian. Take their land and force them somewhere else. They just haven't gotten to the guns yet.

Kevin Beasley is one the best human interest stories I have seen in quite some time. A little kid trying to help save his heritage by actively fighting against an enitity (Navy) that couldn't care less about what is right for the American public and evironment.

Anonymous said...

So many times, we sit at our homes and do nothing, while this child has given up the "average" child hood lifestyle to follow his father's footsteps and fight for his community.

If the rest of the world would show only a 1/10 of this type of passion for their families, and their country, this world would be a better place.

We need more Kevins in this world and more parents like Kevin's.

Go Beasley's! We praise you for raising Kevin to be such a caring and loving child.

FTA said...

The Navy wants to sacrifice the pristine Albemarle/Pamlico peninsula in northeastern North Carolina to accommodate the people that have built expensive homes near Oceana and Fentress knowing that they were building next to airfields used by the Navy for loud jets. Some of these expensive homes are owned by Navy officials.

If the Navy needs an additional airfield for an outlying landing field (OLF), the military owns a vast amount of land in North Carolina where an airfield could be built that would not hurt the environment or displace North Carolina citizens. Also on military owned land are existing unused or underused airfields. The Department of Defense is emphasizing cooperative facilities and training among the military branches. Therefore the Navy should look first at military owned land for an OLF site.

DrFrankLives said...

Where is the Council of State on this one?

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to believe that this physical / natural / pristine area and its inhabitants who hold precious those ideals set forth by our forefathers in the Constitution are the polar opposite of this other entity called the Navy which represents oppression and tyranny.

John Locke and Thomas Jefferson would dare to say that perhaps this new-fangled thing we call our government doesn't work for us like the one that was originally designed.

A new Locke and a new Jefferson would probably advocate seeking out a good team of human rights lawyers to look into secession options...Lord knows how long such an issue as that would linger in the courts though...

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