By: Dorothy Sherman
SHORTER, AL - Alabama is taking new steps to help rural counties.
According to the USDA, and the U.S. Census one in six Americans lives in poverty. And, 90 % of counties with the highest rates are in rural America.
Twenty-three counties in Alabama are considered to have some of the worst poverty-stricken areas in the state.
"these counties have greater than 20 percent poverty for the last four or more years" said, AL NRCS State Conservationist, Dr. William Puckett. "Some of these counties have greater than 35 percent poverty. That is tremendous in our country today".
But, what is known as the black belt of Alabama could be seeing some relief.
This afternoon officials gathered in Macon County to launch StrikeForce, an initiative by the USDA implemented to 13 states. And, created to partner with government departments and communities on projects to better rural areas.
"This can be the thing that changes the black belt economically, in my opinion" said, Commissioner of AL Department of Agriculture and Industries, John McMillan.
The initiative assess the critical needs of the counties, and takes proactive steps to address those needs.
"Rural hospitals are closing that's not a positive" said, Ron Sparks, Director of Alabama Rural Development.
Sparks stressed a need in changes to healthcare in rural counties, and said forty-seven percent of people in the black belt live with health issues like high blood pressure.
"The black belt is blessed with a lot of numbers. and, a lot of numbers we're not particularly proud of and it's our responsibility to change those numbers" said, Sparks.
The initiative hopes to produce long-term changes. In Alabama counties having areas that are much in need.
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