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USDA Officials Highlight StrikeForce at South Dakota Indian Business Alliance Conference

Tawney Brunsch, Executive Director of the Native CDFI, Lakota Fund with USDA Rural Development State Director Elsie Meeks at the StrikeForce conference. USDA photos

Tawney Brunsch, Executive Director of the Native CDFI, Lakota Fund with USDA Rural Development State Director Elsie Meeks at the StrikeForce conference. USDA photos

South Dakota USDA officials recently highlighted the StrikeForce initiative at the bi-annual South Dakota Indian Business Alliance Conference held in Rapid City.  The conference with the theme of, “Building Opportunities in the New Native America,” was a perfect opportunity to announce South Dakota USDA’s focus on increasing partnerships and leveraging resources on South Dakota tribal lands.

“We are working to build new partnerships to create jobs and improve the economic vitality of rural communities in South Dakota,” Elsie Meeks, USDA Rural Development State Director said. “Although, USDA Rural Development finances many projects on South Dakota’s reservations, being designated as a StrikeForce state to work on tribal lands, compels us to become more strategic in bringing access of all Rural Development’s programs to reservations. For example, one of our initiatives will be to create a network to provide more opportunities for homeownership on tribal lands,” said Meeks.  “Along with homeownership and business programs, Rural Development will finance critical infrastructure needed for growth and a healthy environment on our tribal lands.”

“The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works directly with individual producers and Tribal entities to help them conserve, maintain, and improve their natural resources.” said Jeff Zimprich, NRCS State Conservationist.  “A producer may seek assistance from NRCS to provide technical assistance in the form of a conservation plan including engineering design, or financial assistance in the form of incentives through various NRCS programs.”  Zimprich notes that “NRCS has been successful in providing technical and financial assistance for conservation activities in those areas targeted in the StrikeForce initiative and anticipates that increased outreach and developing new partnerships will result in even better utilization of our agencies technical and financial resources.”

“Through the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Farm Loan Programs we serve as the lender of first opportunity for many tribal members who are starting or growing their individual ranching and farming operations,” said Craig Schaunaman, FSA State Executive Director.  “FSA also offers risk protection through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) to tribal members who rely on grasslands throughout the state of South Dakota for forage and grazing purposes.”

StrikeForce is a USDA initiative to increase program participation from rural communities and leverage collaboration with community based organizations in targeted, persistent poverty areas. South Dakota was recently added to the initiative’s list of StrikeForce states. To learn more about StrikeForce and watch a video about the initiative click here.

Area - District Director at USDA-Farm Service Agency, Dan Whetham, Michael A. Combs, USDA NRCS Assistant State Conservationist, Rural Development State Director Elsie Meeks, and South Dakota Indian Business Alliance President and Four Bands, Inc. Executive Director Tanya Fiddler. USDA photos

Area - District Director at USDA-Farm Service Agency, Dan Whetham, Michael A. Combs, USDA NRCS Assistant State Conservationist, Rural Development State Director Elsie Meeks, and South Dakota Indian Business Alliance President and Four Bands, Inc. Executive Director Tanya Fiddler. USDA photos

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