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USDA's StrikeForce meetings set for Minden, Arcadia

Submitted / USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will hold a meeting Thursday in Minden, La., to help connect local residents with an array of microloans, farm loans and housing assistance programs aimed at lifting up rural America.

The USDA last year designated 44 parishes for its StrikeForce initiative. That’s a nationwide effort to curb poverty and divestment that has long plagued rural areas.

Dexter Sapp is a soil conservationist and the StrikeForce coordinator for the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. He’s based in Alexandria. Over the past year, he has crisscrossed the state attending StrikeForce meetings.

“This is more than just a meeting for us to say, well, we’ve accomplished that. We’ve had our meeting, let the people know about it, and we go on our merry way. No, there’s some follow up. This meeting is different in that we have your contact information and you will be getting a call,” Sapp said.

The USDA has held dozens of StrikeForce meetings in Louisiana and poured almost $763 million into the state’s rural economy through microloans, farm loans and fully-financed rural housing assistance for repairs and renovations. That’s according to the USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity website.

Sapp says it’s rewarding for him to connect residents with the agencies that can help improve their quality of life.

“I don’t see this as a job. From a personal standpoint, I see this as a ministry. I’m being able to reach out to people who’ve never heard of us who are able to get assistance and they are in desperate need. That gives me job satisfaction right there,” Sapp said, who has worked for the NRCS for 37 years.

The meeting in Minden is hosted by Trailblazer RC&D. It will be held in the B.F. Martin Community Life Center Thursday, Aug. 27, at 5:30 p.m.

Another StrikeForce meeting will be held in Arcadia on Sept. 3 at the Bienville Parish Courthouse.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.