COLUMBUS, Ohio, Jan. 15, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the expansion of the Department's StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative into high-poverty counties in Florida, Missouri, Montana, and Ohio. Launched in 2010, more than 1,500 StrikeForce partnerships have already helped USDA support nearly 190,000 projects and invest $23.5 billion in high-poverty areas in rural America.

USDA's StrikeForce Initiative Invests $23.5 Billion in Rural Communities, Expands to Four New States

For Immediate Release
January 15, 2016

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Florida/Virgin Islands Farm Service Agency
PO Box 141030
Gainesville, Florida 32614-1030
http://www.fsa.usda.gov/fl

Contact: Janet Wright
352-379-4518
janet.wright@fl.usda.gov

Florida, Missouri, Montana and Ohio to Receive Enhanced Assistance for Persistent Poverty Areas

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Jan. 15, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the expansion of the Department's StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative into high-poverty counties in Florida, Missouri, Montana, and Ohio. Launched in 2010, more than 1,500 StrikeForce partnerships have already helped USDA support nearly 190,000 projects and invest $23.5 billion in high-poverty areas in rural America.

"Growing the economy by investing in rural communities, farmers, makers and innovators, and increasing opportunities for families are keys to our nation's future," said Vilsack. "StrikeForce has proven to be an effective, collaborative process that builds partnerships and enables USDA to bring economic opportunity directly to rural Americans where they live and helps rural communities leverage their assets."

Currently, 85 percent of our country's persistent poverty counties are in rural America. More than one-third of rural Americans and one-in-four rural children live in poverty. Research has shown that even kids growing up in families earning as much as twice the poverty threshold are still nearly three times as likely as all other children to have poor health, are more likely to finish two fewer years of school, and are more likely to learn earn half as much money in their adult life.

USDA's StrikeForce delivers promising, sustainable results by building partnerships with community organizations, businesses, foundations, universities, faith-based and other groups to help challenged communities shape a future based on local assets and regional strengths. With the addition of Oklahoma and Puerto Rico in 2015, StrikeForce technical assistance reached people in 880 counties and parishes, helping USDA invest nearly $7.5 billion to create jobs, build homes, feed kids, assist farmers and conserve natural resources in some of the nation's most economically challenged areas.

Other significant, measurable results for 2015 include:

  • Helped create or save more than 5,800 jobs in high-poverty rural areas.
  • Assisted over 14,600 farmers and landowners to preserve natural resources and protect the environment.
  • Helped nearly10,000 farmers with farm loan assistance, almost three quarters of them socially disadvantaged or beginning farmers.
  • Provided more than 75 million summer meals to kids in StrikeForce states.

Altogether, 970 counties, parishes, boroughs, and census areas in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia are now eligible for "intensive care" through StrikeForce.

StrikeForce is part of the Obama Administration's commitment to address persistent poverty across America. USDA identifies census tracts with over 20 percent poverty (according to American Community Survey data) to identify sub-county pockets of poverty. As areas of persistent poverty are identified, USDA staff work with state, local and community officials to increase awareness of USDA programs and help build program participation through intensive community outreach and technical assistance. Visit www.usda.gov/StrikeForce.

USDA also works with other federal partners to synchronize and leverage related work underway through the White House placed-based priorities like the Promise Zone Initiative; the Rural IMPACT Demonstration; Local Foods, Local Places; and Strong Cities, Strong Communities.

Since 2009, USDA has made significant investments in the four states with counties receiving the StrikeForce designation:

  • In Florida, USDA invested nearly $61.6 billion between 2009 and 2015. This includes more than $6.5 billion in economic development to support affordable housing and create jobs; more than $1.4 billion in infrastructure development, including electricity, broadband and telecommunications, water, and community facilities; and more than $926 million through conservation efforts to protect Florida's land, water and air resources.
  • In Missouri, USDA invested more than $32.1 billion between 2009 and 2015. This includes more than $4.7 billion in economic development to support affordable housing and create jobs; more than $2.9 billion in infrastructure development, including electricity, broadband and telecommunications, water, and community facilities; and nearly $1.7 billion through conservation efforts to protect Missouri's land, water and air resources.
  • In Montana, USDA invested more than $11.4 billion between 2009 and 2015. This includes nearly $1.7 billion in economic development to support affordable housing and create jobs; nearly $828 million in infrastructure development, including electricity, broadband and telecommunications, water, and community facilities; and more than $1.2 billion through conservation efforts to protect Montana's land, water and air resources.
  • In Ohio, USDA invested more than $36.8 billion between 2009 and 2015. This includes nearly $4.2 billion in economic development to support affordable housing and create jobs; more than $952 million in infrastructure development, including electricity, broadband and telecommunications, water, and community facilities; and nearly $828 million through conservation efforts to protect Ohio's land, water and air resources.

President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.

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StrikeForce counties in Florida, Montana, Missouri and Ohio include:

Florida
Alachua County
Baker County
Bradford County
Calhoun County
Collier County
Columbia County
DeSoto County
Dixie County
Flagler County
Franklin County
Gadsden County
Gilchrist County
Glades County
Gulf County
Hamilton County
Hardee County
Hendry County
Highlands County
Holmes County
Jackson County
Jefferson County
Lafayette County
Leon County
Levy County
Liberty County
Madison County
Nassau County
Okeechobee County
Palm Beach County
Putnam County
Suwannee County
Taylor County
Union County
Wakulla County
Walton County
Washington County

Missouri
Barry County
Barton County
Benton County
Bollinger County
Butler County
Cape Girardeau County
Carter County
Cedar County
Crawford County
Dade County
Dallas County
Dent County
Douglas County
Dunklin County
Greene County
Hickory County
Howell County
Iron County
Jasper County
Lawrence County
Madison County
McDonald County
Miller County
Mississippi County
Morgan County
New Madrid County
Newton County
Oregon County
Ozark County
Pemiscot County
Perry County
Phelps County
Polk County
Reynolds County
Ripley County
Scott County
Shannon County
St. Clair County
St. Francois County
Ste. Genevieve County
Stoddard County
Texas County
Vernon County
Washington County
Wayne County
Wright County

Montana
Big Horn County
Blaine County
Chouteau County
Deer Lodge County
Glacier County
Golden Valley County
Hill County
Lake County
Liberty County
Prairie County
Roosevelt County
Rosebud County
Sanders County

Ohio
Adams County
Athens County
Fayette County
Guernsey County
Jackson County
Lucas County
Meigs County
Morgan County
Pike County
Scioto County
Vinton County

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).