Why is USDA Expanding StrikeForce While Cutting Other Programs?

Isn’t it ironic that new programs are being created – government is expanding – at the same time our nation’s politicians are stumping about our need to balance the federal budget?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this past week announced plans to expand its StrikeForce program, which was launched in 2010 to promote economic growth in rural areas.  It began as a pilot program in Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi.  In 2011, StrikeForce expanded to Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.  New efforts would bring StrikeForce to poverty-stricken areas in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

I have mixed emotions about this program for many reasons.  StrikeForce spends tax dollars we don’t have.  It will grow government since additional “rural partnerships” will require additional governmental administration.  Plus, I don’t understand reasoning behind axing some existing programs only to create new programs or expand others.  The Sequester is supposedly taking money away from current programs, some which are required by laws already on the books!  Yet, it appears dollars can be found for the current administration’s pet projects.

Eleven new states will be added to the StrikeForce program.  When I heard this reported on 1040 WHO radio early Monday morning, I googled the program to be sure that I heard the announcement correctly.  My search yielded a Huffington Post article in which an embedded USDA video explains some of the success that StrikeForce has had to date including “tackling food insecurity in Arkansas and improving access to farm programs in Nevada.”

The Huffington Post article also states:  “Every day the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides assistance to help grow American agriculture and increase opportunity for rural communities.  Unfortunately, 90% of America’s persistent poverty counties are in rural American – and we can’t allow these areas to be left behind.”  One question I have is, “Does the 90% of the poverty counties refer to the number of people or are we just looking of area size?”

I’m conflicted. Watching the USDA video, one can be persuaded to believe StrikeForce is a great program.  But, how’s it being funded?  Is the program focused only on minorities?  (Sidebar: The deadline was just extended on a big settlement of discrimination cases for minorities… Why?)  Rules to apply loans of over $30,000 look simple, which raises more questions about how this program is run.

StrikeForce could be a fantastic program, but I’m pessimistic when it comes to bigger government as a whole.  Take a look for yourself. Do some checking. And of course, let your elected officials know what you think. It’s our government, our money, and our program!