Soldiers working with Afghan farmers to grow wheat

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- Army National Guard soldiers from farm states are hoping to fight terrorism and grow Afghanistan's farm economy, one legitimate crop at a time.

Guard soldiers have been in the country since February teaching modern farming practices in hopes of supplanting fields of opium poppies with wheat and other crops. While their work is limited to a small part of the country, they believe it is making a difference.

Many Afghans are poor farmers who have no other way to make a living.

But Col. Martin Leppert, the national coordinator of the Guard's Agribusiness Development Team, says some farmers are changing their crops to wheat because they know they can't eat opium.

Guard members from Missouri were the first to be deployed for the agriculture mission, followed by soldiers from Texas. Units from Nebraska, Tennessee, Indiana and Kansas will be involved over the next two years.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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