StrikeForce puts focus on community

Published 6:37pm Saturday, May 11, 2013

A variety of community-based organizations from Dallas County and other surrounding counties gathered at the central Framers Co-op Friday morning for an introduction to the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity in Alabama initiative, a program that was launched statewide last week.

The primary goal of the StrikeForce initiative is to partner with local and state governments and community organizations on projects that promote economic development and job creation. Currently 90 percent of America’s persistent poverty counties are in rural America. Guest speaker, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, said she plans to be a “true partner.”

“What I love about the StrikeForce initiative is it’s primary focus is leveraging those other [agriculture] dollars and it gives us lots of opportunities to get grants,” she said to the crowd. “It crosses so many different sectors. My hope is that today you will utilize the opportunity to put the puzzle together and be able to apply for as many of these wonderful grants and possibilities that are there in our great state.

“It’s our responsibility of making it better for the next generation, so it’s important that all of us work together.”

The audience watched a short film that looked at success stories from the initiative in Arkansas and Georgia reported in the Spring of 2013. The video highlighted the fact that from healthier, more profitable farms to telemedicine and safe drinking water, StrikeForce is making a difference in America’s most needy places.

Sewell said she looks forward to partnering with StrikeForce, “to seek ways of alleviating poverty and really promoting economic development — that’s what it’s all about.”

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack began the StrikeForce initiative as a pilot project in 2010 in selected regions in Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi. In 2011 the program expanded to include Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. In 2013 Vilsack announced new efforts to bring the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity to Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

“USDA in Alabama is actively involved in community outreach, service and economic development,” State Food and Agriculture Council Chair and StrikeForce Lead Dr. William Puckett said. “We look forward to expanding this effort to help rebuild and revitalize rural communities in targeted areas.”

The StrikeForce team will focus on creating jobs, improving quality of life, expanding business and community development, and building partnerships in the following 23 persistent poverty counties in Alabama: Bibb, Dallas, Monroe, Bullock, Escambia, Perry, Barbour, Greene, Pike, Butler, Hale, Pickens, Choctaw, Lee, Russell, Clarke, Lowndes, Sumter, Conecuh, Macon, Wilcox, Crenshaw and Marengo.

Participants in StrikeForce include the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development, the Farm Service Agency, the Food and Nutrition Service and other USDA offices and state agencies.

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