COLUMBIA, S.C., March 27, 2013 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the USDA intends to expand its “StrikeForce” initiative in 10 additional states, including South Carolina.

Vilsack said the primary goal of the initiative is to increase partnerships with rural communities and leverage community resources in targeted, persistent poverty areas.

He noted that through the StrikeForce initiative, USDA will do more to partner with local and state governments and community organizations on projects that promote economic development and job creation.

“During my travels across the country, I’ve heard mayors and other community leaders say they have a hard time competing for USDA loan and grant programs,” Vilsack said. “They have a plan to develop a new business or create jobs in their regions, but they lack development capital and they view our application and review processes as a barrier. StrikeForce changes that. By increasing outreach and technical assistance to communities, we can serve as better partners and help better leverage resources.”

The StrikeForce initiative started as a pilot project in 2010 in selected regions in Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi. In 2011, it was expanded to include Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada.

The USDA now intends to offer the initiative in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.

Under the initiative, USDA identifies census tracts with more than 20 percent poverty levels to identify sub-county pockets of poverty. As areas of persistent poverty are identified, USDA staff works with state, local and community officials to increase awareness of USDA programs, and help build program participation. Vilsack noted that often USDA conducts special outreach activities in an area, and that since 2010, USDA has partnered with over 400 local community based organizations to promote local or regional development projects.

Vilsack offered several examples of what the initiative is doing:

  • In Arkansas, StrikeForce is tackling food insecurity and access to healthy food. USDA established a partnership with Heifer International through the East Arkansas Enterprise Community.
  • In Nevada, StrikeForce is improving access to farm programs in Indian Country. USDA has partnered with the Indian Nations Conservation Alliance, Nevada Department of Agriculture, and local extension services to promote locally grown food on Tribal lands in Nevada.
  • In Georgia, USDA is collaborating with Fort Valley State University to provide technical assistance to develop a cooperative business structure in the Georgia goat industry.
  • In New Mexico, StrikeForce is helping more children get a healthy meal when school is out. USDA partnered with New Mexico Collaborative to End Hunger, Share Our Strength and Dairy Max to fund its first mobile Summer Food Service Program bus, delivering meals to 45,000 children each summer weekday at 700 partner sites.

“The StrikeForce initiative is helping us direct additional resources to better serve producers in persistent poverty rural communities,” said Vilsack. “We are focusing on these identified high poverty areas to help improve the quality of life of producers and their communities and to accelerate implementation of conservation practices on their land.”

To view a video regarding StrikeForce, click here.


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