United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development State Director for Minnesota Brad Finstad today announced nearly $30 million to improve rural electric service in 13 counties 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.”
Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative will use a $15 million loan to add 575 customers, build 42 miles of line, improve 38 miles of existing line and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $2,961,860 for smart grid projects. Headquartered in Aitkin, Mille Lacs Energy Coop. currently provides service to 15,150 customers in Aitkin, Crow Wing and Mille Lacs counties.
Red River Valley Cooperative Power Association (Red River Valley Coop) is receiving an $8 million loan to build 47 miles of line, improve 44 miles and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $1,545,000 for smart grid projects. Red River Valley Coop provides electric service to 4,606 customers over 1,802 miles of line in Clay, Norman and Polk counties in northwestern Minnesota. The economy of the service territory has historically relied on agriculture and agriculture-related industries.
Federated Rural Electric Association will use a $4.5 million loan to build 19 miles of line, improve 32 miles and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $1,798,500 for smart grid projects. Federated is headquartered in Jackson. It serves 6,789 customers seven southern Minnesota and four northwestern Iowa counties.
Finstad’s announcement is in coordination with the recent announcement by Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett that nationwide, USDA is investing $398.5 million to improve rural electric service in 13 states, including Minnesota: Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
USDA is making the investments through the Electric Infrastructure Loan Program. These investments include nearly $43.7 million for smart grid technology to increase system efficiencies. 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.
The Department’s support for rural cooperatives and utilities underscores Secretary Perdue’s priority to promote rural economic development by centering around three principles: infrastructure, partnerships and innovation. Investing in electric infrastructure has increased productivity and improved the quality of life in rural areas for nearly 80 years.
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.