When President Lincoln established the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) more than 150 years ago, he called it “the People’s Department” because USDA addresses the vital interests of the people. Now, more than ever, it is necessary for USDA to collaborate across federal agencies and into local community-building institutions to meet the unique challenges faced by the people of rural America.
USDA Rural Development (RD) plays a key role in supporting the diverse communities in rural America. The incredible resilience, hard work, and enduring cultural values of our rural population embody the beauty of America and are worth cherishing.
According to USDA’s Economic Research Service, nearly 85 percent of the nation’s persistently poor counties are in rural America. In 2010, the USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity was created to mobilize our staff in regions needing the most assistance. Through the StrikeForce initiative, USDA has strengthened partnerships across our many agencies to provide underserved communities greater access to not only the funding tools available within the USDA, but the resources of our partner agencies and organizations. Since its inception, more than 1,500 StrikeForce partnerships have helped USDA support nearly 190,000 projects with a total investment of $23.5 billion in high-poverty areas in rural America. Nearly 1,000 rural counties, parishes, boroughs, and census areas have been served nationwide through StrikeForce.
In 2013, the White House established the Promise Zone initiative, which requires federal agencies to commit, collaborate, and provide well-coordinated assistance to designated communities. Through these efforts, community leaders and partner organizations are provided the resources and empowerment to organize, plan, and immediately access technical and financial assistance to meet their economic needs. Over $410 million in federal investments were successfully delivered in the Choctaw Nation, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Southeastern Kentucky, and the South Carolina Low Country in just two years.
All this month, USDA is focusing on how “Rural America is Back in Business.” As part of that effort, USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS) is hosting a series of informational webinars to share success stories from across the country. These stories will provide details on how local community organizations are using USDA programs along with multiple federal and private sector resources to support their businesses in rural and Tribal communities.
Customers and stakeholders interested in learning more about RBS programs—and how customers have used our financing tools to support entrepreneurship are encouraged to participate in this opportunity to engage with diverse partner organizations, ask questions, and explore the opportunities USDA has to offer.
As was certain 150 years ago, rural Americans continue to be the backbone of our great country thanks to their resilience, grit, and family values. As we raise a new generation that is full of energy, potential, and opportunity, RD is committed more than ever to protect these values and to empower the people of rural America to achieve their dreams.