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A Virtual Roundtable to Bring the StrikeForce Initiative to New Communities

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) StrikeForce Initiative Director Max Finberg listen to StrikeForce Initiative Beneficiary Colorado farmer Carol Baker Olguin discuss the benefits she and her family received through the USDA StrikeForce program during a Google+ Hangout at USDA in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Jun. 17, 2013.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) StrikeForce Initiative Director Max Finberg listen to StrikeForce Initiative Beneficiary Colorado farmer Carol Baker Olguin discuss the benefits she and her family received through the USDA StrikeForce program during a Google+ Hangout at USDA in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Jun. 17, 2013.

Every day, USDA provides assistance to help grow American agriculture and increase opportunities for rural communities. Unfortunately, 90 percent of America’s persistent poverty counties are in rural America.

Earlier this year, we launched the StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity, which targets rural areas of persistent poverty where USDA staff work with state, local and community officials to increase awareness of programs, target resources and leverage partnerships to promote economic development and job creation.  The initiative is now operating in sixteen states in the Southeast, Southwest, Great Plains and Alaska. As I travel the country, I am heartened to learn of the impact StrikeForce programs have had in these communities and hear stories from the people who have benefitted.

Monday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and some of our StrikeForce stakeholders to discuss their experiences with the initiative in their respective communities.  We both got to hear the important stories about how they got involved and the benefit they’ve seen in their communities. And instead of just speaking to one people in one state, I was able to “hang out” with all of them.

This virtual meeting was conducted via a Google+ Hangout and was broadcast live on our website for everyone interested in learning from the experiences of our panelists. Using this format, we were able to give a new and broader audience an opportunity to attend a virtual StrikeForce panel and hear powerful stories from folks around the country who have used these programs to make real changes in their lives and in their communities.

The vast number of programs that the StrikeForce Initiative offers to help communities in need requires consistent outreach to new communities, especially those that have been historically underserved.  With our Hangout yesterday, I hope we were able to reach a few more.

If you weren’t able to join us on Monday, you haven’t missed it! The Hangout was captured on YouTube and is available on our USDA YouTube channel. For more information on how the StrikeForce Initiative can benefit your community, please visit  usda.gov/strikeforce, or contact the StrikeForce Coordinator in your state.

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