USDA Strike Force Initiative
Today, one in six Americans lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—and 90 percent of counties with the highest poverty rates are in rural America. These are also communities with high numbers of Historically Underserved groups, like African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans.
Last year, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack launched the StrikeForce Initiative, a cross-agency effort to accelerate assistance to Historically Underserved groups. Through this initiative, USDA is working to ensure all producers have access to programs that can help them thrive, including proven conservation programs.
In partnership with local community-based organizations, three USDA agencies—Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency and Rural Development—are working to improve USDA’s outreach to these communities in order to increase their access to—and participation in—our valuable programs. We’re currently piloting the StrikeForce Initiative in 137 counties in Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi.
NRCS is working in three key areas to propel this initiative:
We’re expediting our service, placing a high priority on enrolling producers in StrikeForce counties quickly, so they can start implementing conservation and seeing the benefits. We have also placed a premium on providing fast service to these communities in the wake of recent natural disasters.
We’re expanding outreach and participation, devoting staff resources to outreach and local education seminars in the pilot states to let producers know that assistance is available and help them understand what’s needed to take advantage of these programs.
We’re removing barriers, identifying regulatory roadblocks to getting service to the StrikeForce counties and getting assistance to Historically Underserved and Limited Resource producers.
In fulfilling its commitment to the StrikeForce Initiative, NRCS augmented its allocations in these three states by providing $6 million in additional financial and technical assistance to Historically Underserved and Limited Resource producers.
Since we began this initiative a year ago, we’ve helped hundreds of producers make conservation work on their lands—increasing productivity while also improving their bottom lines. The following PDF document highlights just a few of our successes.
USDA StrikeForce Initiative (PDF, 5 MB)