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USDA’s StrikeForce Initiative Expands to Four New States


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the expansion of the Department’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative into high-poverty counties in Florida, Missouri, Montana, and Ohio. Launched in 2010, more than 1,500 StrikeForce partnerships have already helped USDA support nearly 190,000 projects and invest $23.5 billion in high-poverty areas in rural America.

“Growing the economy by investing in rural communities, farmers, makers and innovators, and increasing opportunities for families are keys to our nation’s future,” said Vilsack. “StrikeForce has proven to be an effective, collaborative process that builds partnerships and enables USDA to bring economic opportunity directly to rural Americans where they live and helps rural communities leverage their assets.”

Currently, 85 percent of our country’s persistent poverty counties are in rural America. More than one-third of rural Americans and one-in-four rural children live in poverty. Research has shown that even kids growing up in families earning as much as twice the poverty threshold are still nearly three times as likely as all other children to have poor health, are more likely to finish two fewer years of school, and are more likely to learn earn half as much money in their adult life.

USDA’s StrikeForce delivers promising, sustainable results by building partnerships with community organizations, businesses, foundations, universities, faith-based and other groups to help challenged communities shape a future based on local assets and regional strengths. With the addition of Oklahoma and Puerto Rico in 2015, StrikeForce technical assistance reached people in 880 counties and parishes, helping USDA invest nearly $7.5 billion to create jobs, build homes, feed kids, assist farmers and conserve natural resources in some of the nation’s most economically challenged areas.

Other significant, measurable results for 2015 include:

  • Helped create or save more than 5,800 jobs in high-poverty rural areas.
  • Assisted over 14,600 farmers and landowners to preserve natural resources and protect the environment.
  • Helped nearly10,000 farmers with farm loan assistance, almost three quarters of them socially disadvantaged or beginning farmers.
  • Provided more than 75 million summer meals to kids in StrikeForce states.

Altogether, 970 counties, parishes, boroughs, and census areas in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia are now eligible for “intensive care” through StrikeForce.

StrikeForce is part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to address persistent poverty across America. USDA identifies census tracts with over 20 percent poverty (according to American Community Survey data) to identify sub-county pockets of poverty. As areas of persistent poverty are identified, USDA staff work with state, local and community officials to increase awareness of USDA programs and help build program participation through intensive community outreach and technical assistance. Visit www.usda.gov/StrikeForce.

USDA also works with other federal partners to synchronize and leverage related work underway through the White House placed-based priorities like the Promise Zone Initiative; the Rural IMPACT Demonstration; Local Foods, Local Places; and Strong Cities, Strong Communities.

Since 2009, USDA has made significant investments in the four states with counties receiving the StrikeForce designation:

  • In Florida, USDA invested nearly $61.6 billion between 2009 and 2015. This includes more than $6.5 billion in economic development to support affordable housing and create jobs; more than $1.4 billion in infrastructure development, including electricity, broadband and telecommunications, water, and community facilities; and more than $926 million through conservation efforts to protect Florida’s land, water and air resources.
  • In Missouri, USDA invested more than $32.1 billion between 2009 and 2015. This includes more than $4.7 billion in economic development to support affordable housing and create jobs; more than $2.9 billion in infrastructure development, including electricity, broadband and telecommunications, water, and community facilities; and nearly $1.7 billion through conservation efforts to protect Missouri’s land, water and air resources.
  • In Montana, USDA invested more than $11.4 billion between 2009 and 2015. This includes nearly $1.7 billion in economic development to support affordable housing and create jobs; nearly $828 million in infrastructure development, including electricity, broadband and telecommunications, water, and community facilities; and more than $1.2 billion through conservation efforts to protect Montana’s land, water and air resources.
  • In Ohio, USDA invested more than $36.8 billion between 2009 and 2015. This includes nearly $4.2 billion in economic development to support affordable housing and create jobs; more than $952 million in infrastructure development, including electricity, broadband and telecommunications, water, and community facilities; and nearly $828 million through conservation efforts to protect Ohio’s land, water and air resources.

Source: USDA

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