United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development State Director for Minnesota Brad Finstad announced today nearly $43 million will be invested in rural electric infrastructure to improve system efficiency and reliability throughout Minnesota.
“Solid infrastructure is essential to the growth and success of rural communities,” Finstad said. “According to the Minnesota Rural Electric Association, Minnesota’s electric cooperatives currently serve about 1.7 million of the state’s 5.1 million residents. These investments will help ensure that rural communities continue to be a part of that number and that service is affordable, reliable and efficient.”
USDA’s $43 million investment will build 140 miles of line and improve 194 miles of line to meet the current and future needs of nearly 62,000 rural businesses, residents and agricultural producers. It will also support $14.7 million in smart grid technologies to help rural electric utilities reduce outages and integrate new systems.
Smart grid includes technological enhancements such as metering, substation automation, computer applications, two-way communications and geospatial information systems.
The Department is awarding a $10.6 million loan to Minnesota Valley Cooperative Light and Power Association in Montevideo, Minn. The utility will build 52 miles of line and improve 14 miles to provide reliable, affordable electricity to 5,260 residential and business consumers across eight counties in southwestern Minnesota. The loan includes $560,000 for smart grid technologies.
Runestone Electric Association is receiving a $19.5 million loan to build 88 miles of line, improve 180 miles and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $1.3 million for smart grid projects. Runestone serves 10,000 residential, 720 commercial, 253 irrigation and 3,066 seasonal consumers across 2,900 miles across 6 counties in central Minnesota.
Crow Wing Power will receive a $12.9 million loan for smart grid projects. Crow Wing’s service territory has a strong agricultural base that represents a large segment of the local economy. Livestock, poultry, corn, oats and hat are the primary agricultural products in the region. Most non-farm employment is associated with agricultural and food processing activities with some light manufacturing and recreational activity.
Finstad’s announcement was made in coordination with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue who announced USDA is investing $276 million in rural electric infrastructure nationwide, totaling nearly 1,000 miles of new line, 733 miles of improved line and $65 million in smart grid technologies. This announcement comes the day before Secretary Perdue is set to testify alongside Secretaries Wilbur Ross, Alexander Acosta, Elaine Chao and Rick Perry at a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing focused on rebuilding American infrastructure.
Investments are being made in Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and Virginia. The loan guarantees are being provided through USDA Rural Development’s Electric Program, which is the successor to the Rural Electrification Administration.
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 services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.