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Secretary Vilsack Launches USDA “StrikeForce” Initiative to Boost Rural Economic Growth and Opportunity

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA will launch its "StrikeForce" initiative in 10 additional states, including North and South Carolina. The primary goal of the StrikeForce initiative is to increase partnership with rural communities and leverage community resources in targeted, persistent poverty areas.

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. 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. Vilsack made the announcement at two stops in South Carolina yesterday.

Consumer Confidence Slips

Americans are less confident in the economy this month after ticking up in February. The Conference Board's Lynn Franco blames uncertainty over the sequester.

“It’s really the outlook and the great deal of uncertainty surrounding the economy that has consumers lacking confidence this month.”

Fruit and Vegetable Prices Returning to Normal

While fruit and vegetable prices are up, USDA economist Ricky Volpe explains that it’s really a weather issue:

“In 2012 we had a very warm winter so we had bumper crops for fruits and especially vegetables so that meant supply was high and prices were low. Here we are in 2013, and we are looking at a return to normalcy, normal output for most of our fruit and vegetable crops and normal prices, but in percentage terms the difference will be pretty stark between this year and last year.” is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.