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USDA Announces $110 Million in Investments to Improve Rural Electric Infrastructure for 300,000 Rural Minnesotans

Nikki Gillespie
Release Date

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Minnesota State Director Brad Finstad today announced USDA is awarding over $110 million to improve rural electric reliability and resilience throughout Minnesota.

“President Trump and the United States Department of Agriculture are pursuing an unprecedented commitment to rebuild America’s infrastructure, including a special emphasis on rural communities,” said Finstad.  “This funding will improve the reliability of the electric transmission system for nearly 300,000 rural Minnesotans and is an excellent illustration of the Agency’s pledge to modernize and expand rural infrastructure.”

Minnesota’s BENCO Electric Cooperative is receiving a $25 million loan to finance electric distribution and transmission facilities. Funding will be used to build or improve 158 miles of line and invest $2.7 million in smart grid technologies to increase electric system efficiencies and grid security. BENCO provides electricity to more than 18,500 residential and commercial consumers over nearly 3,600 miles of line in 10 counties in south central Minnesota. Much of its service territory is farmland. Continued improvements in basic services such as schools, hospitals, roads and telecommunications are transforming the area into a regional center for medical care and retail shopping.

Dairyland Power is receiving a $84,760,000 loan to build 18 miles of electric transmission line and upgrade 174 miles. Dairyland also will make improvements at several generating plants. It is a non-profit generation and transmission cooperative that provides wholesale electric service to 24 distribution members and 17 municipalities in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. It has a diversified mix of generation resources consisting of coal, hydro, natural gas, wind, biomass, animal waste and solar. Its service territory is 59 percent residential, 15 percent small commercial, and 26 percent large commercial. Dairyland's member cooperatives serve 263,000 consumers.

Today’s announcement came as part of a larger statement from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in which he said USDA is investing $485 million to upgrade rural electric systems and reduce energy costs.  The funding includes nearly $7.1 million for smart grid technologies that improve system operations and monitor grid security. USDA is providing financing through the Electric Loan Program for 10 projects in Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin. These investments will help build or improve 2,635 miles of line.

“Investing in our nation’s rural electric infrastructure will ensure that utilities and cooperatives can continue to deliver reliable, affordable power,” Perdue said. “These loans will strengthen rural economies and help improve the quality of life for people who live and work in rural America.”

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). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (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.

Contact USDA Rural Development

Information on programs available through USDA Rural Development is available by visiting www.rd.usda.gov/mn or by calling (651) 602-7800Image removed..