The USDA is expanding its program to help local communities in poverty stricken rural areas with economic development and job creation. Speaking in Columbia, South Carolina, on Tuesday, Vilsack said, “When people think of poverty they often think in terms of inner city poverty and certainly there is a good deal of that but oftentimes people fail to realize that 90% of the persistently poor counties are actually located in rural areas.”
The “StrikeForce” Initiative is adding 10 more states to the existing six where it’s already in play. The program has all USDA divisions partnering with local groups – and Vilsack says it’s been a success. He points to the increase in Farm Service Agency direct loans for farmers.
“Even when at sometimes and at some places the overall direct loan applications were going down – applications in StrikeForce areas were going up, meaning more credit and more opportunities particularly for beginning farmers and socially disadvantaged farmers,” says Vilsack.
The StrikeForce program is being expanded to include South and North Carolina, South and North Dakota, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Texas, Utah and Virginia. It began in 2010 with Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi and expanded to include Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada in 2011.
USDA’s StrikeForce is in play in rural areas of persistent poverty – with more than a 20-percent poverty level. Some of its projects include increasing access to healthy foods.
~Audio and photo courtesy of our sister network SCRN – South Carolina Radio Network~