Georgia’s Effort to Boost Rural Economic Growth and Opportunity Noted as Secretary Vilsack Expands USDA StrikeForce Initiative.
Chris Groskreutz, Acting Stating Public Affairs Specialist
ATHENS, GEORGIA (APRIL 3, 2013) —Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced recently that the Department of Agriculture has launched its StrikeForce Initiative in 10 additional states, citing the success of Georgia and other pilot states. The StrikeForce Initiative started in 2010 in selected regions in three states: Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi. In 2011 it was expanded to include Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. Secretary Vilsack is now bringing the effort of StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity to Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
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.
“The Georgia StrikeForce team has worked very hard over the last couple years to identify better ways to inform the public about USDA programs as well as how USDA staff can better assist our customers in qualifying and applying for USDA assistance. As the Chairman of the Food and Agricultural Council that oversees the StrikeForce Initiative in Georgia, I am excited to see the Secretary’s comments and how committed our team in Georgia is to furthering this Initiative’s success. Through better partnerships and helping communities leverage resources, we are continuing to eliminate barriers that are wide spread in these persistent poverty regions,” said USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist, James Tillman.
“The Georgia StrikeForce Initiative has led to many successes since it began,” USDA-Rural Development (RD) State Director, Quinton Robinson added, “but as we look ahead, Georgia StrikeForce can help us target a variety of projects in StrikeForce Counties. Some priority areas this year for RD are renewable energy and bio-refinery projects, rural tourism, food hubs, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.” Some of the recent successes in the StrikeForce region include:
• USDA is helping Second Harvest Food Bank of South Georgia expand its mission to gather and share quality food and nurture partnerships that will end hunger through the use of a new regional distribution center.
• StrikeForce is helping farmers and ranchers conserve natural resources on their land through technical and financial assistance. Poultry farmer Adam Nguyen now has a better way to store and manage poultry litter on his operation in Arlington (Baker County), Georgia. Fellow farmer, Howard James, now has a better way of irrigating his muscadine vineyards after obtaining assistance to install a drip-irrigation system on his Byromville (Dooly County) farm.
• In Rayle (Wilkes County), StrikeForce has restored four households with running water after the area’s ongoing drought caused wells to run dry.
• USDA is also collaborating with Fort Valley State University to develop a cooperative business structure in the Georgia goat industry. Georgia-based Gotcha Goat was able to develop their business through the school’s Meat Technology Center and their product is now on the shelves of grocery stores around Atlanta.
“The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will continue to support StrikeForce goals of improving access to, and awareness of, nutrition assistance programs for eligible recipients and participating farmers markets by working with Georgia state agencies and our Georgia StrikeForce partners,” said Donald Arnette, Southeast Regional Administrator for FNS.
USDA-Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Acting State Director David Laster said “While our entire Georgia staff work hard every year, I am proud to see that while nationwide, our Direct Lending numbers were down slightly, our lending in the StrikeForce regions saw an increase this year.
Participants in the StrikeForce Initiative include the USDA’s NRCS, RD, FSA, and FNS as well as other USDA agencies, state and local governments, and community based organizations.
Anyone wishing to learn more about USDA programs and initiatives like StrikeForce can visit www.usda.gov/strikeforce or stop by their local USDA service center.
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