Thirty West Virginia counties have been added to a U.S. Department of Agriculture initiative targeting persistent poverty in rural America.

Regional counties in which the program will operate are Braxton, Calhoun, Clay, Gilmer, Ritchie, and Roane.

"There's a significant rural component to poverty in America," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "The average wage-earner in a rural county makes $6,500 a year less than an urban worker."

The USDA antipoverty program, called StrikeForce, matches federal funds with local projects and their sponsoring organizations. Last year, the program financed, among other things, more than $9 million in micro-loans to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, and $68 million for community buildings in StrikeForce areas.

Projects StrkeForce has been involved with range from financing summer feeding programs for rural schools and building tribal administration offices for American Indians to providing farmers with funds for seasonal greenhouses and providing loans for rural housing.

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