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News Release

USDA “StrikeForce” Initiative to Boost Rural Economic Growth and Opportunity in Texas

Temple, Texas, Mar. 26, 2013—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will launch its “StrikeForce” initiative in Texas and nine additional states. The StrikeForce Initiative is designed to provide relief to persistent high-poverty counties - 90 percent of which are in rural areas - by accelerating technical and financial assistance delivered through USDA agencies, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), and Rural Development (RD), and Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).

“To implement the StrikeForce Initiative, our agencies work in partnership with Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to improve outreach and provide assistance to communities and farmers in Texas,” says NRCS State Conservationist Salvador Salinas. “Ultimately we want to increase awareness of and participation in USDA's programs, as well as provide additional economic benefits to these areas.”

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.

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.

StrikeForce is helping direct needed USDA resources to individuals and communities in nine Texas counties : Duval, El Paso, Hidalgo, Jeff Davis, Jim Wells, Maverick, Presidio, Starr and Webb.

“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 counties to help improve the quality of life of producers and to accelerate implementation of conservation practices on their land.”

You can learn more about the USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity at www.usda.gov/strikeforce. You can also contact the Texas StrikeForce coordinator Bertha Venegas, email: bertha.venegas@tx.usda.gov or phone: 830-249-2821.