These agencies form the starting lineup for USDA in Virginia, providing the following services to enhance quality of life in rural communities:
Farm Service Agency (FSA): Provides loans, including the new microloan program and youth loans, income support for eligible commodities, farm storage loans, payments for protecting environmentally sensitive land and crop loss, and for converting bio-mass to energy.
Food and Nutrition Service (FNS): Offers children and low-income citizens access to food, a healthy diet, and nutrition education in a way that supports American agriculture and inspires public confidence. Seeks to expand the market for locally produced agricultural products through alternative ways for payment.
Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS): Helps farmers and other landowners install conservation practices to increase productivity and profitability while improving soil and water quality. Provides technical assistance and financial incentives for grazing systems, GRP easements, high tunnels, and transitioning to organic farming.
Rural Development (RD): Works with communities to enhance public safety, improve access to health care and educational opportunities, improve infrastructure, and provide jobs and access to capital. Offers grants and loans for market structures and processing facilities.
Virginia State University (VSU): Collaborates with USDA and state agencies to provide training and technical assistance to enhance farm incomes and improve quality of life in rural communities.
First Year Highlights (2013)
One of the positive outcomes of closer collaboration among the StrikeForce agencies produced an innovative partnership to feed hungry kids in the summer at rural housing sites. While brainstorming about ways to increase summer feeding sites, Rural Development (RD) and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) worked on a cooperative venture in which RD's Multi-Family Housing Complexes served as summer feeding sites so children could receive nutritious meals during the summer months. Fifteen rural multi-family complexes served as summer feeding sites and other states are adopting the idea.
In addition, Virginia State University conducted workshops and demonstrations for more than 1,000 small and historically underserved farmers and businesses to increase their profitability and participation in USDA programs. This included a workshop with USDA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization to help farmers and small businesses become certified vendors for the government. One other example was the Commercial Vegetable and Berry Day, with almost 600 attendees.