Oklahoma and Puerto Rico Join Twenty States Receiving Targeted Assistance Addressing Rural Poverty
Lexington, KY, March 19, 2015 - USDA Secretary Vilsack today announced an expansion of the USDA StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity to address chronic rural poverty in 32 identified counties in Oklahoma and the entire island of Puerto Rico. Today's announcement brings StrikeForce assistance to 880 counties, parishes, colonias, boroughs and tribal reservations across 21 states and Puerto Rico.
"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."
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.
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.
The Secretary made the announcement as he inaugurated the first National Rural Child Poverty Nutrition Center at the University of Kentucky in Lexington and discussed the White House Rural Council's focus on addressing rural child poverty. Seventy-three chronically impoverished counties in Kentucky began receiving StrikeForce attention in 2014. Since then, StrikeForce teams have helped provide nearly 2 million summer meals to Kentucky's poorest children, finalized 535 land management and conservation projects; assisted 1,290 low income farmers with loans and financial aid and made over 8,740 home investments. StrikeForce efforts in Kentucky have also created or retained over 530 jobs in the state, including 185 positions at Superior Battery, a manufacturer in rural Russell Springs which used a USDA Business and Industry Loan to finance facility improvements, and increase production to reach wider markets.
Additional 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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