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Weldon Freeman (202) 690-1384
Jay Fletcher (202) 690-0498
USDA Announces Investments to Improve Rural Electric Infrastructure and Finance Smart Grid Technologies
More than 6,200 customers will benefit from improved or new service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2019 – Acting Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Joel Baxley today announced that USDA is investing $122 million to expand and upgrade rural electric systems in Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Oklahoma and South Dakota. The funding includes more than $7 million to finance smart grid technologies to improve system operations and monitor grid security.
“Modern and reliable electric infrastructure is foundational to building prosperity in rural America,” Baxley said. “Under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA is committed to being a strong partner in improving this essential infrastructure.”
USDA is investing in seven projects through funds from the Electric Loan Program. The loans will help build or improve 964 miles of line to benefit more than 6,200 business and residential customers.
South Dakota’s West River Electric Association, for example, is receiving a $30 million loan to build or improve 163 miles of line, serve 1,049 new customers and finance $2.4 million in smart grid technologies. Smart grid includes computer applications, two-way machine-to-machine communications, geospatial information systems and other tools to increase the reliability and efficiency of electric power systems. West River serves 16,920 residential and commercial consumers in an area largely dependent on agriculture, tourism and business activity.
Southern Indiana Rural Electric Cooperative Inc. will use a $10.5 million loan to build or improve 92 miles of line to enhance system operations for 600 rural consumers. The loan also includes more than $1.5 million for smart grid technologies. Southern Indiana serves 9,300 consumers over 1,643 miles of line across five counties. Its service territory includes both agricultural and industrial consumers, such as woodworking, furniture manufacturing, logging, rock quarrying, coal mining, crude oil production and manufacturing of steel products.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.
To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB) (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB) (PDF, 190 KB).
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.