USDA Launches StrikeForce Initiative in Oklahoma to Address Rural PovertyThu, 26 Mar 2015 21:00:51 CDT
Thirty-two counties in Oklahoma will be joining the U.S. Department of Agriculture's StrikeForce Initiative. This is a coordinated effort to provide assistance to the nation's most impoverished counties. State and federal leaders made the announcement at the state capitol Thursday. USDA Assistant Secretary Gregory Parham said is an outreach effort by USDA.
"So, what we are trying to do is make sure that those communities that have traditionally not had access, are aware of the programs, know how to apply for the programs and therefore can increase their participation in the programs that we already have in place," Parham said.
The StrikeForce Initiative will be rolled out by USDA's Farm Service Agency, Rural Development and Natural Resource Conservation Service. Parham said they are working to address the needs of local communities by creating awareness and educating citizens on the availability of programs across USDA. Among the most popular programs include the Microloan Program, which provides loans up to $50,000 for direct farm operating loans, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program that helps individuals get into growing specialty crops with hoop houses and so forth.
Radio Oklahoma Network's Leslie Smith covered the announcement at the capitol. Click on the LISTENBAR below to listen to the interview with Parham about the effort.
To facilitate increased demand for federal assistance those three government agencies will be hiring more Oklahomans at the local level. USDA will also partner with local community based organizations, such as extension personnel to carry out the effort.
Oklahoma joins 20 other states and Puerto Rico in receiving targeted assistance to address rural poverty. The effort will focus on high poverty areas including the Choctaw Nation, along with counties located in the southwest, the southeast and Cimarron County in the Panhandle. These have been declared among Oklahoma's persistent poverty counties to be eligible for assistance under the initiative. This announcement brings StrikeForce assistance to 880 counties across the 21 states.
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.
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