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      Poor rural areas getting help from USDA StrikeForce

      COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Persistently poor rural areas of South Carolina can expect a helping hand from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. It is introducing its StrikeForce program to the state to alleviate economic challenges and improve quality of life in counties with 20 percent or higher poverty rates.

      "When people think of poverty, they often think in terms of inner city poverty, and certainly there is a good deal of that," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "But often times people fail to realize that 90 percent of the persistently poor counties in this country are actually located in rural areas."

      StrikeForce plans to form partnerships with small communities to address specific needs, whether it be small businesses struggling to market their products or a town in need of a new fire station.

      "Whatever a community needs most, we then look at our tool chest and figure out what program could possibly apply," said Vilsack.

      Congressman James Clyburn announced the areas that will receive the most help from StrikeForce.

      "South Carolina will be focused in large measure along the I-95 corridor of counties there because those are where basically so much of our rural communities are," said Clyburn.

      If you think this program means more government spending, Vilsack says, think again.

      "This is not going to add a penny to the deficit," said Vilsack. "This is not about new spending. It's about smart spending."

      Vilsack says after seeing success in six other states, the USDA is expanding the program to ten more states this year, including South Carolina.