The USDA recently announced that it will be expanding a federal program intended to reduce poverty and improve life in rural areas. The program, called Strikeforce, helps farmers, food producers and other businesses apply for federal grant money for projects such as new wells, greenhouses, community gardens, kitchen space and summer meals for low-income schoolchildren, reported the Washington Post.
It was started as a pilot project in 2010 in high poverty counties in Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi. In 2011, it was expanded to include Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, according to a report from Farm Progress. The latest states to join are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
The USDA hopes that this program will address the persistent problem of rural poverty. The incidence of poverty is greatest in America’s rural areas and central cities, according to data from the Housing Assistance Council, a nonprofit agency focused on ending rural poverty. It estimate that approximately 10 million persons, or 16.3 percent of the rural and small town population, live in poverty.
ABC news reports how Strikeforce funds helped South Carolina farmer Larry Harris. "Harris says he used to farm row crops such as soybeans and corn but, several years ago, learned of a USDA-funded program that could help him build a well to irrigate more profitable specialty vegetable crops. Harris is bound by a contract with USDA to use the well for irrigation for three years. After that, he can use the well as he sees fit. 'On an acre of land, through these programs you could make more growing vegetables than you could doing row crops,' he said."