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A call for Iowa agricultural knowledge

  • Published
  • By Sergeant Bluff Advocate (Wayne Dominowski Ltc Ret.)
(SB) - Neil Stockfleth, former Sergeant Bluff Luton school board member and formerly with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, is heading to Afghanistan this coming August. A lieutenant colonel with the 185th Air Refueling Wing (ARW), Stockfleth's one year mission couples his military background and strong agricultural expertise. He and 60-plus Iowa airmen and soldiers are set to assist Afghan's farmers in getting on their feet and overcoming what years of past wars have done to a nation that once was very self-sufficient in agriculture.

Lt.Col. Stockfleth will be leaving behind his family. In so doing, Neil and the others in his group hope to provide a significant contribution to Afghan's society and well-being.

"The military has been doing this for around 20 years," he said of the Agri-business Development Team (ADT). "It's just one of efforts by the National Guard located in agricultural Midwest States where Guardsmen have a strong farming background," Stockfleth explained of yet another example of the United States dipping into its American knowledge and know-how to assist other nations.

The Sergeant Bluff resident recently returned from a brief journey to Afghanistan, where American military men and women are currently deployed in our battle against Taliban and Al-Qaida terrorists. He described his advance visit as seeing first hand the devastation brought about by the former Soviet Union (Russian) military in their invasion of that nation (Dec. 24, 1979 - Feb. 15, 1989).

"What happened in those ten years in which Afghanistan's mujahedeen (freedom fighters) fought the Soviets was a displacement of the Afghani people. Not only displacement of its people and the obliteration of towns and villages, but also a complete disarray of Afghanistan's agricultural base." After the Soviets withdrew in 1989, civil war descended upon Afghanistan.

Stockfleth and his ADT group will arrive in Afghanistan and take over operations from a similar group (the latter from California), and carry on assisting the farmers in that Mideast country. The ADT is a virtual living agricultural encyclopedia of knowledge. Agronomist, pest management, ag marketing, ag processing, hydrologist, forestry management, large animal veterinarian, soil science, water resource, engineer and ag contractor, are all Guardsmen on board for the one year operation.

From what he has already observed, "It won't be American 2010 technology we provide, but rather more like 1910 technology." Stockfleth said that the reason for the disparity in years is the fact that in Afghanistan, farmers - in fact the entire nation - "still do everything by hand."

"It's a unique opportunity for the U.S.," he said. "We're not going to win the war [there] by just going after and killing bad guys. The strategy we will be engaged is to return young men to agriculture where they not only can feed their families, but also give them a living through farming - something they once had many years ago."

When Stockfleth and his ADT group depart overseas, they will be working in the Kunar Province, Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border. Their objectives include improving access to technology, capital, and market access; provide adequate secure storage facilities; improve delivery of Afghan ag support; protect food supply; improve conservation practices, restore irrigation and crop land capacity; improve productivity and country's food security; improve ag production, assist young farmers; stabilize country by putting food on the table; providing provincial ag extension agents with tech advice to establish service to local farmers; identify and promote access to local and regional markets; identify equipment, training, and expertise needed to instruct ag students at provincial universities; expand irrigation capacity and technology in local river basins, and establish demonstration farms to advance farming techniques, equipment and technology.

It's a huge task. Then again, Iowans have a reputation for getting the job done and done right.