South Carolina StrikeForce Meeting, November 13, 2013
Team USDA in South Carolina Unites for StrikeForce Outreach Meeting
By Amy Melissa Overstreet, NRCS Public Affairs Specialist and SC StrikeForce Coordinator
In March of 2012, Secretary Vilsack traveled to South Carolina to make an exciting announcement. His message made many of the state’s residents hopeful. He revealed that nineteen SC counties would be included in the StrikeForce Initiative, due to their classification as persistent poverty counties. According to the U.S. Census, conducted every ten years, these are counties in which 20 percent or more of the population has lived in poverty over the past 30 years. USDA agencies in SC pledged to work in concert to make the initiative a success and ensure an effective outreach strategy.
StrikeForce is an effort whereby USDA coordinates its activities among all agencies and leverages the expertise and local grassroots network of Community Based Organizations (CBO’s), Land-Grant Universities, and Extension Services to better serve persistent poverty communities and socially disadvantaged farmers. In an effort to educate a diverse audience within SC’s StrikeForce counties, a meeting was hosted at South Carolina State University, a Land-Grant University, in Orangeburg, SC, on November 13, 2013.
Over one hundred individuals attended, including farmers, landowners, county council representative, mayors, educators, and state and local officials. SC NRCS State Conservationist Ann English said, “Assessing the needs of our clients is top priority. Our goal is to extend our outreach beyond our traditional client base, and reach those potential customers that perhaps we have not made contact with before.”
USDA agencies represented at the meeting included the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Farm Service Agency, Southeast Regional Office of the Food and Nutrition Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Rural Development, and Risk Management Agency. The meeting was moderated by Karla Martin, USDA-1890 Program Liaison for Fort Valley State University, Georgia, and Interim Liaison for SC State University.
The day-long meeting included presentations from agency leaders, followed by a question and answer panel. Attendees then signed up for one-on-one consultations with agency representatives of their choice in the afternoon, depending on their needs. “StrikeForce is about delivering information regarding USDA’s programs and services with a personalized, interactive approach,” explained SC StrikeForce Coordinator and NRCS employee Amy Overstreet. She said she was very pleased with the number of attendees that seized the opportunity to meet with the USDA representatives. “These folks got a great overview of each agency, but the individual consultations enabled them to really focus on the particular program or service that could benefit them.”
For example, five NRCS District Conservationists were equipped with laptops connected to the USDA system, enabling them to meet onsite with farmers and landowners to discuss their unique farm and land needs. At the completion of the appointments, a follow up meeting was scheduled back in their home county with their local NRCS District Conservationist.
StrikeForce is the use of strategic planning, education, and technical assistance by USDA professionals with stakeholder groups, community action groups, and local elected leadership-to support them with “how to’s” of community and economic development planning, focused on accessing the USDA’s programs and services.
To view a map of SC’s nineteen StrikeForce counties, visit SC StrikeForce Initiative.
For more information contact SC’s StrikeForce Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 765-5402.