More States Join USDA's StrikeForce Initiative: Is Kentucky Next?

By: Megan Crenshaw, Staff Member

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) began a pilot program called the StrikeForce initiative in 2010.[1] The USDA via the StrikeForce initiative "provides assistance to help grow American agriculture and provide tools to increase opportunity for rural communities."[2] The USDA hopes to improve the quality of life of producers and their communities and accelerate the implementation of conservative practices on their land.[3] The initiative seeks to increase partnership with rural communities and leverage community resources in targeted, persistent poverty areas.[4] "Ninety percent of America's persistent poverty counties are in rural America."[5] Therefore, there is a strong need for the StrikeForce initiative as it aims to create equal access to USDA programs.[6] The overall goal of the initiative is to "increase investment in rural communities for technical assistance and other resources in priority, poverty-stricken communities."[7]

The pilot program operated within selected regions of three states: Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi.[8] The program was expanded to include Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada in 2011.[9] Now, in 2013, United States Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, has announced "new efforts to bring StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity" in ten more states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.[10]

So far, the program has partnered with organizations within local communities to promote local and regional development projects.[11] The assistance provided has ranged from food insecurity in Arkansas to access to farm programs in Nevada.[12]

Kentucky is not among the states that were part of StrikeForce's recent expansion despite its persistent poverty counties. Based on data analysis, Kentucky is among the states that take the title of having some persistent-poverty counties.[13] "Persistent poverty is defined as counties where 20% or more of the residents were poor" in recent censuses (1970, 1980, 1990, 2000).[14] The state covers 39,728 square miles.[15] In 2011, the estimated population of the state was 4,369,356 people with 1,820,571 people living in rural Kentucky.[16] "Estimates from 2010 indicate a poverty rate of 22.9% in rural Kentucky, compared to 16.0% in urban areas of the state."[17]

It seems that Kentucky would be among the ten states that recently joined the StrikeForce initiative. Although there are presently no clear reasons as to why Kentucky has not partnered with the USDA to promote economic development and job creation, Vilsack noted that through the StrikeForce initiative, the USDA will do more to partner with local and state governments and community organizations.[18] Perhaps Kentucky will soon be among the latest states to join the initiative.
[1] News Release, Secretary Launches "StrikeForce" Initiative to Boost Rural Growth and Opportunity (March 26, 2013) (on file with the United States Department of Agriculture),
[2] USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity,, (last visited April 1, 2013). 
[3] News Release, Secretary Launches USDA "StrikeForce" Initiative to Boost Rural Growth and Opportunity, supra note 1.
[4] Additional States Join USDA's StrikeForce Initiative (March 26, 2013),,
[5] USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity,, (last visited April 1, 2013).
[6] Tom Vilsack, USDA StrikeForce: Expanding Partnerships and Opportunity in Rural Communities, (March 26, 2013, 10:53 AM),
[7] USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity, supra note 5.
[8] News Release, Secretary Launches USDA "StrikeForce" Initiative to Boost Rural Growth and Opportunity, supra note 1.
[9] Id.
[10] Id.
[11] Vilsack, supra note 6.
[12] Id.
[13] Geography of Poverty,, (last visited April 1, 2013).
[14] Id.
[15] Health and Human Services Information for Rural America, Kentucky,, (last visited April 1, 2013). 
[16] Id.
[17] Id.
[18] Additional States Join USDA's StrikeForce Initiative, supra note 4.