USDA Officials Announces Expansion of Strike Force Initiative to Puerto Rico
By: José Otero-García, Puerto Rico State Director
USDA Officials from the Agricultural Marketing Service, Farm Service Agency, Food and Nutrition Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Rural Development joined Puerto Rico’s First Lady, Wilma Pastrana, on April 21, 2015 for the announcement of the expansion of USDA’s Strike Force for Rural Growth and Opportunity in Puerto Rico.
The announcement was made at Finca González in Guánica. Mr. Carlos González is the property’s owner and a successful farmer in Puerto Rico. He is an FSA borrower and NRCS client that also received a $150,000 Value Added Producer Grant and a Rural for America Program (REAP) $20,000 grant to install tie-grid photovoltaics system to reduce his energy consumption from fossil fuel sources. He also is a food supplier for FNS program participants.
Elvis Cordova Deputy Under Secretary for the Agricultural Marketing Service and USDA representative on the White house TASK FORCE FOR PUERTO RICO delivered USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s message. Also at hand were Patricia Dombrosky, Mid Atlantic Regional Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service, Max Finberg, National Coordinator for the STRIKE FORCE initiative and Sam Rikkers, Rural Development Administrator for the Business and Cooperative Service. The event received wide media coverage.
Next we visited USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service’s project sites in Rio Loco and Guánica Bay Watershed, to learn about current agency’s programs and target future efforts on the Island. This project involves several conservation partners including state and local government and non-government organizations and has served as a model for watershed management in the Pacific Islands.”
Later, during the day we visited the municipality of Coamo. The municipality received a Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) of $500,000.00 grant funds to restore the historic Casa Bernier and convert it into a lodging facility creating economic development/opportunities for the operation of the lodging, a restaurant and others facilities. It is expected to create approximately 30 direct jobs and over 40 indirect jobs.
To close out an exciting day we visited Coamo Hollywood Theater, a project awarded a grant of $75,000.00 under the Community Facilities Program, Economic Impact Initiative Grant. This project created 30 permanent jobs and capitalized new investment transforming into a self-sustainable cultural asset and preserving an important historical property.
In this hard economic times, we are grateful that Secretary Tom Vilsack designated Puerto Rico as a STRIKE FORCE STATE helping us ensure rural growth and put an end to rural poverty.