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News Release

Secretary Vilsack Expands StrikeForce Initiative to Address Rural Poverty in Four Additional States

Expansion brings the StrikeForce Initiative to a total of 48 persistent poverty counties in Arkansas

 

Little Rock, Ark., January 30, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced the expansion of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's StrikeForce Initiative into four additional states:  Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia.

"The StrikeForce strategy of partnering public resources with local expertise is helping to grow rural economies and create jobs in persistent poverty communities," said Vilsack.  "This is a strategy that is working in rural America and I am pleased that we continue to build on these efforts to bring assistance to areas that need it the most."

The StrikeForce Initiative started as a pilot project in 2010 with Arkansas as one of three pilot states.  The expansion brings StrikeForce attention to more than 700 rural counties, parishes, boroughs, tribal reservations, and colonias in 20 states, including 48 counties in Arkansas. 

The 25 original StrikeForce Initiative counties in Arkansas are:

Arkansas, Bradley, Chicot, Clark, Colombia, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Hempstead, Howard, Jackson, Lafayette, Lawrence, Lee, Mississippi, Monroe, Nevada, Newton, Ouachita, Phillips, Randolph, Searcy, Sevier, St. Francis, and Woodruff.

The 23 expansion StrikeForce Initiative counties in Arkansas are:

Ashley, Clay, Conway, Craighead, Crittenden, Franklin, Fulton, Independence, Izard, Jefferson, Johnson, Lincoln, Madison, Miller, Montgomery, Poinsett, Polk, Scott, Sebastian, Sharp, Stone, Union, and Van Buren.

The StrikeForce Initiative in Arkansas is addressing needs in persistent poverty counties to more effectively use farm loans, conservation programs and housing programs.

“Since its inception, the StrikeForce Initiative has helped our agency direct additional resources to better serve producers in persistent poverty counties and accelerate implementation of conservation practices on their land,” said USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Mike Sullivan.  “NRCS provided more than $2.8 million in financial assistance in StrikeForce counties in fiscal year 2013 though the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).  Much of the EQIP funding provided financial assistance to producers on small acreage farms to construct High Tunnels that extend the growing season in an expanding alternative and vegetable crop industry.  EQIP funding also supported the installment of conservation practices including irrigation water management, conservation cropping systems, and nutrient management. With the Secretary’s StrikeForce expansion announcement, we can increase our outreach, and financial and technical assistance to serve as better partners and help those in persistent poverty rural communities prosper.”

“StrikeForce was created as a means of better serving persistent poverty rural communities” said USDA Rural Development (RD) State Director Lawrence McCullough.  “In fiscal year 2013, RD obligated $64.4 million to service 535 loans and grant contracts.  The StrikeForce Initiative expansion provides a welcome challenge meeting the Secretary’s goal of effectively reaching out and serving our state’s persistent poverty communities.  RD and our many collaborative stakeholders can now better address critical needs that exist in 64 percent of Arkansas’s counties.  We are pleased with the opportunity to work with rural communities to obtain funding to construct multi-and single family housing units, water and waste water projects and assistance in support of cooperatives to help sustain high volume markets.”

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) launched the Microloan program to increase producer access to working capital and to reduce paperwork requirements for producers when making application for funding. 

“FSA urges agriculture producers to inquire about the new Microloan program,” said State Executive Director Linda Newkirk.  “The Microloan program better serves the unique financial operating needs of beginning, niche, and the smallest of family farm operations in StrikeForce counties by modifying its Operating Loan application, eligibility and security requirements.” 

Landowners wanting more information about USDA’s StrikeForce Initiative should contact their local USDA Service Center listed in the phonebook under U.S. Government or contact Charlie Williams, USDA StrikeForce Coordinator, at 870-814-3052, email charlie.williams@ar.usda.gov, or visit www.usda.gov/StrikeForce.