USDA StrikeForce Initiative Highlighted at Professional Ag Workers Conference
AUBURN, Ala., January 10, 2014
USDA Partners in the StrikeForce Initiative: (l-r) Dr. William Puckett, NRCS, Auburn, AL; Diane Amera, Risk Management Agency, Valdosta, GA; Patrice Kunesh, USDA-Rural Development, Washington, DC; and Ronnie Davis, Rural Development; Daniel Robinson, Farm Service Agency; and Steve Lohr, U.S. Forest Service in Montgomery, AL.
Dr. William Puckett, Alabama Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist, and Dr. Walter Hill, Dean, College of Agriculture, Environment, and Nutrition Sciences, Tuskegee University, hosted a breakout session on the StrikeForce Initiative at the Professional Agricultural Workers Conference (PAWC) at the Tuskegee University Kellogg Conference Center in December 2013.
Dr. Puckett opened the meeting with a video highlighting the Initiative’s success across the U.S. Special guest USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Patrice Kunesh emphasized the importance of the StrikeForce Initiative in promoting American agriculture and creating economic opportunity in rural communities. Ninety percent of persistent poverty counties are located in rural America.
USDA team members from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Risk Management Agency, Farm Service Agency, Rural Development, Food and Nutrition Service, and U.S. Forest Service presented success stories from Alabama’s 24 targeted persistent poverty counties.
At the end of the session Dr. Walter Hill spoke about the positive relationships being formed between Tuskegee University, USDA agencies, and community-based partners. He told success stories that are proving this approach works.
Alabama is one of thirteen States in the Initiative, joining Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota and Virginia - with concurrent regional activities in Tribal Communities in Arizona, Texas, and Utah. Using existing authorities and programs, USDA strategically uses community-based partners in the state’s persistent poverty counties to educate and implement service plans while establishing mechanisms to help gauge results, measure efforts, and improve success. These partnerships will increase effectiveness of service at the local level while ensuring that USDA is a more comprehensive and inclusive service provider.
The USDA website (www.usda.gov) reports that the results of the Initiative have already been impressive.
Farm Service Agency loans in StrikeForce areas were up almost 10 percent in 2012 over 2011 - even when the nation as a whole saw farm lending drop 10 percent.
Natural Resource Conservation Service program applications by underserved producers last year increased by 82 percent in StrikeForce areas.
In 2012, Rural Housing loans were up more than 110 percent over 2011 loans in StrikeForce areas.