Secretary Vilsack Launches USDA

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will launch its ”StrikeForce” initiative in 10 additional states, including North Carolina. The primary goal of the StrikeForce initiative is to increase partnership with rural communities and leverage community resources in targeted, persistent poverty communities. Vilsack 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. 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,” said Vilsack. “StrikeForce changes that. By increasing outreach and technical assistance to communities, we can serve as better partners and help communities leverage resources.”

The “StrikeForce” initiative started as a pilot project in 2010 in selected regions in three states: Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi. In 2011 it was expanded to include Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. Today, Secretary Vilsack announced new efforts to bring the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity to Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

“Outreach and building partnerships is what Strikeforce is all about,” said NRCS Acting North Carolina State Conservationist Terrance Rudolph. “USDA and partners working together with landowners in economically depressed counties, where land retention is challenging, having the resource to make necessary land stewardship improvements is difficult, and having a full understanding of the resources available to help is deficient – through StrikeForce, USDA and our partners will work together with these landowners to overcome these obstacles.”

To identify persistent poverty counties, USDA identifies census tracts with over 20 percent poverty (according to the Census Bureau’s 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.

The 43 StrikeForce poverty areas identified in North Carolina include:

Anson, Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Camden, Caswell, Cherokee, Chowan, Cleveland, Columbus, Currituck, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gates, Graham, Granville, Greene, Halifax, Hertford, Hyde, Hoke, Jackson, Jones, Lenior, Martin, Montgomery. Nash, Northampton, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Person, Pitt, Richmond, Robeson, Rowan, Rutherford, Sampson, Scotland, Tyrell , Vance, Washington, Wayne and Wilson counties.

“The inclusion of North Carolina in Secretary Vilsack’s StrikeForce initiative provides a multi-agency focus to address the critical needs in our persistent-poverty counties. StrikeForce provides direction and coordination of USDA agencies and local partners to bring increased opportunity for economic development to the rural citizens we serve. This Initiative will provide additional emphasis for the USDA Rural Development housing, business, community facility and infrastructure programs we currently deliver across our State.”
Randall Gore, North Carolina Director, USDA Rural Development

“The StrikeForce Initiative gives Farm Service Agency (FSA) North Carolina another tremendous opportunity to showcase what it does best! With 85 North Carolina counties considered rural, FSA enthusiastically accepts its role in confronting poverty through workable practical solutions. And FSA’s goal will be a trusted partner in just not addressing, but ending, poverty by using its reputation of service among the local farm community. In the agriculturally diverse State of North Carolina, FSA sits in an ideal position of influence to raise awareness and educate its citizens.”
Cindy Kernodle, Acting Director North Carolina Farm Service Agency

Participants in the StrikeForce include the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development, the Farm Service Agency, the Food and Nutrition Service and the USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach.

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