USDA Set to Boost Rural Economies in Virginia Through USDA
Richmond, March 27, 2013 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that Virginia is one of 10 new states joining the Department’s “StrikeForce” Initiative this year. The primary goal of “StrikeForce” is to increase partnerships with rural localities and leverage community resources in targeted communities.
In Virginia, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Rural Development (RD), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), and Virginia State University (VSU) have teamed up to develop strategies for increasing awareness of and participation in USDA programs. The agencies have identified joint goals and areas where programs/services interface to promote economic development in targeted areas.
“This initiative will harness the power of USDA and its partners to foster economic development in rural communities and provide them with greater access to safe and nutritious food,” explains NRCS State Conservationist John A. Bricker. “Access is the key to the success of this effort. We have a dedicated multi-agency team that will conduct targeted outreach to citizens and agricultural producers using existing programs and funding.” See target area list. (pdf, 43 KB)
These agencies are strategizing on ways to work with state and local governments and community based organizations to partner on projects within their mission area. Some initial projects include expanding farmers markets and determining feasibility of opening a livestock processing plant. Implementing these projects will help farmers improve production and, provide financial incentives for environmental practices, finance new markets facility and increase sources and access for locally grown agricultural products.
For example, VSU might conduct a workshop for new fruit and vegetable producers and share information on how to extend their growing season with a seasonal high tunnel. NRCS can offer the financial and technical assistance needed to install that high tunnel. FSA could provide a micro loan to help the producer expand his or her operation. RD could help the producer with expanded market facilities for their goods, and FNS could help that Farmer’s Market acquire the card readers to process SNAP redemptions on site.
“StrikeForce” started as a pilot project in 2010 in selected regions of three states: Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi. In 2011, it was expanded to include Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. This new effort brings the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity to Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
For more information on StrikeForce activities in Virginia, visit www.va.nrcs.usda.gov.