Agriculture Secretary Announces Electric System Improvements in 23 States

COLUMBIA – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced funding for rural electric utility system improvements that will benefit residential and business customers in 23 states.  The projects include more than $14.3 million to implement smart grid technology and nearly $11 million to improve electric service for Native Americans. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service Administrator John Padalino made the announcement on the Secretary’s behalf while addressing a regional meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in San Antonio, Texas.

“These investments will ensure that rural electric infrastructure will continue to meet the electricity needs of rural residents, farmers, and commercial and industrial customers,” Padalino said. “This funding is part of the Obama Administration’s vision for a new rural energy economy. It includes investments in smart grid technologies that modernize our nation’s electric system and improve its operation.”

In Missouri, Callaway Electric Cooperative, which serves 362 customers, received a $9.3 million loan guarantee. The funds will be used to build 40 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements. The loan includes $1.9 million for smart grid projects.

“Electricity is essential for quality of life in rural communities. Access to adequate electrical services is critical for community and economic development,” Missouri State Director Janie Dunning said. “With these funds, Callaway Electric Cooperative can undertake necessary enhancements to facilities allowing the cooperative to continue to provide excellent service to customers and the region. I applaud Callaway Electric Cooperative for being proactive and congratulate the cooperative for receipt of the guarantee.”

The $960 million in USDA loan guarantees announced today will help build 3,587 miles of line, benefit approximately 17,000 rural residential and business customers, and make other system improvements. Including today’s announcement, the Obama Administration has invested $152 million in smart grid technologies nationwide during 2013.

USDA funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan agreement.

Vilsack noted that this funding announcement is another reminder of the importance of USDA programs for rural America.  A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy.  He said that’s just one reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done as soon as possible.

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.    USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.