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USDA Targets Poverty in Southeast Utah

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expanding a program into Utah that is aimed at helping rural counties escape the grasp of persistent poverty.

The new StrikeForce Initiative brings together agencies within the USDA in an attempt to better coordinate efforts to spur economic development in rural counties. Dave Conine is the Rural Development state director. He says by making knowledge and resources available through things like micro-loans that they’ll be able to make a real difference.

“The real goal is to reduce poverty and one of the ways you do that is you create new economic opportunity, new employment opportunity, bring new money into the area by being able to export a product,” Conine says.

At first the initiative will focus on areas of San Juan County where groups of Navajo Indians live. It’s an area that has a poverty level greater than 20%. Fred White is the director of natural resources for the Navajo Nation. He says he sees it as a great opportunity for growth.

“We have a lot of land," White says. "We have a lot of water that’s there. Sometimes we think we don’t but we do. You know here’s an opportunity that we can really do something for ourselves.”

The StrikeForce initiative started as a pilot program in 2010 and has since expanded to 16 states.

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