Anne Hazlett, assistant to the secretary for rural development, announced June 7 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $309 million in 16 projects to improve rural electric infrastructure in 12 states. Jeff Case, Missouri state director, announced that more than 10 percent of this investment is going to improve rural Missouri communities, including those served by Webster Electric Cooperative.
“Robust, modern infrastructure is a foundation for quality of life and economic opportunity, no matter the ZIP code in which you live,” Hazlett said. “Under Secretary (Sonny) Perdue’s leadership, USDA is committed to being a strong partner in addressing rural infrastructure needs to support a more prosperous future in rural communities.”
Hazlett made the announcement during a visit to the Central Iowa Power Cooperative. One of its members, Farmers Electric Cooperative in Greenfield, Iowa, is receiving a $1.4 million USDA loan to invest in smart grid projects. Farmers plans to install more than 5,800 single-phase meters and additional meter reading equipment in its west-central Iowa service area.
Hazlett also announced that Missouri’s Webster Electric Cooperative is receiving a $21.35 million USDA loan to build 98 miles of line, improve 67 existing miles of line and make other system improvements, including smart grid projects. Webster serves 17,291 residential and 879 commercial consumers in southwest Missouri in Webster County, as well as parts of Greene, Christian, Dallas, Wright, Douglas and Laclede counties.
“Infrastructure is not just an amenity in rural America, but is truly a necessity for rural communities to survive, thrive, prosper and grow,” Case said. “USDA Rural Development is pleased to partner with Webster Electric Cooperative and Sac Osage Electric Cooperative, who also realize this need and have prioritized improving the infrastructure in rural Missouri.”
Sac Osage Electric Cooperative is receiving a $10.5 million loan to build 32 miles of line, improve 14 miles of existing line and make other system improvements, including smart grid projects. Sac Osage is headquartered in El Dorado Springs and serves about 11,000 customers in all or portions of nine counties in southwest Missouri.
The loans are being made through USDA’s Electric Infrastructure Loan and Loan Guarantee program. It helps finance generation, transmission and distribution projects; system improvements; and energy conservation projects in communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.
Today’s investments will build or improve 1,660 miles of electric line serving rural homes, farms and businesses. USDA is funding infrastructure improvements for utilities in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, South Dakota and Washington.
Funding for these loans was included in the FY 2018 Omnibus spending bill. It allocates significant resources for infrastructure investments, including $6.25 billion to USDA for electric loans. The measure also directs USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to make investments in rural communities with the greatest infrastructure needs.
In addition to funding in the 2018 Omnibus bill, President Donald Trump has proposed a $200 billion infrastructure investment plan that allocates 25 percent ($50 billion) to rural projects.
In April 2017, 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, Perdue presented the task force’s findings to 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.
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 services, such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed Internet access in rural areas. For more information, go to rd.usda.gov.