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News Release

USDA Expands StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth & Opportunity to Puerto Rico

Contact:
José A. Castro, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Programs
787-766-5206 x117 or 787-501-6144


USDA StrikeForce Coordinator, Max Finberg, announces PR inclusion at Finca Gonzalez on April 21 2015

Puerto Rico Joins 21 States Receiving Targeted for Assistance to Address Rural Poverty

San Juan, PR, April 21, 2015 – Today, USDA officials from the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Rural Development (RD), join Puerto Rico’s First Lady, Wilma Pastrana-Jiménez, and the Honorable Dr. Myrna Comas, PR Secretary of Agriculture, to announce the expansion of USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity to Puerto Rico. The StrikeForce kickoff announcement will be made at 11:00 a.m. at Finca González, RD 334 Km 0.5, Carenero Ward, in Guánica. This announcement launches a new initiative to address chronic rural poverty on the island by working with community partners to create jobs, feed kids, assist farmers, secure safe homes and conserve natural resources.

USDA StrikeForce exhibit at Finca Gonzalez in Guanica on April 21 2015USDA VIPs are touring the island this week to learn about current agency programs in the Commonwealth and target future efforts. Caribbean Area NRCS, FSA and RD staff are hosting Elvis Cordova, USDA Deputy Secretary for AMS and USDA Representative to the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico; Max Finberg, USDA StrikeForce National Coordinator; and Patricia Dombroski, USDA FNS Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator.

Today, USDA VIPs will visit NRCS Coral Reef Initiative Río Loco / Guánica Bay Watershed project sites and Rural Development project sites in Coamo. To celebrate Earth Day tomorrow, April 22nd, USDA and PR dignitaries will visit with Puerto Rico’s First Lady, Mrs. Wilma Pastrana Jiménez, at her La Fortaleza People’s Garden.

In 2010, Secretary Vilsack established USDA's StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity to address the specific challenges associated with rural poverty. Using data from the National Census, USDA state-based leadership identified specific rural areas enduring the worst chronic poverty in need of StrikeForce attention. StrikeForce teams have facilitated collaboration with more than 500 community partners and public entities to bring targeted assistance to these areas.

USDA's first priority is to build the rural economy. With 85 percent of our country's persistent poverty counties in rural areas, our commitment is especially deep in these communities.” said Secretary Vilsack. “The results from StrikeForce efforts to date demonstrate that partnership models are the key in building rural economies by creating jobs, building homes, feeding kids, assisting farmers, and conserving natural resources.”

Through StrikeForce efforts, USDA has invested over $16.5 billion in specific efforts to stimulate chronic rural economies. These investments have helped facilitate:

  • More than 69 million meals to low income children through the Summer Food Service Program;
  • Over 125,000 low income home owners to receive loans to repair or purchase homes;
  • 8,000 low income farmers and ranchers access capital through low interest loans or other financial services;
  • 11,800 contracts to conserve and manage natural resources and land conservation;
  • More than 5,100 new or retained jobs through rural business development activities.

For more information on NRCS efforts with StrikeForce in Puerto Rico, contact José A. Castro, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Programs, at 787-766-5206 x117 or 787-501-6144. More information about USDA's StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity, including state maps, fact sheets and resources, is available at www.usda.gov/strikeforce.

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