Rural Electrification Act marks 80th anniverary

Now Media Group


In 1936, nearly 90 percent of farms lacked electric power because the costs to get electricity to rural areas were prohibitive.

This week marks the 80th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act into law which charged the USDA to provide electric power to rural American.

REA funding and the hard work of Rural Electric Cooperatives transformed agriculture and life in rural America into productivity and prosperity. Thanks to hard work and REA loans, by 1950 close to 80 percent of U.S. farms had electric service. Since then, generations have heard the stories about 'the night the lights came on,' a significant date for farm families.

Today's rural electric cooperatives provide electricity to over 5.5 million rural customers. Since 2009, USDA has invested over $34 billion in nearly 1,000 rural electric projects to deliver affordable, reliable electricity to rural areas. Today's projects strengthen rural electric systems and fund renewable energy and smart grid technologies.

In 1981, the preface in Rural Lines-USA, a publication of USDA's REA noted, 'Looking at the record of accomplishment, we might think the years ahead will be easier. They won't be. The systems we have built will still need pioneers. Today we need men and women who can find new ways to tell their stories to members; who can plan systems to carry many times the present loads; who can chart a sensible and secure financial future. Rural Electrification will require new approaches, fresh ideas. In saluting those people who organized the systems, let us also salute the new pioneers, the planners, who will provide leadership in the years ahead.'

today celebrated the 80th anniversary of the Rural Electrification Act (REA) and announced funding to build and upgrade rural electric infrastructure in five states.

'Today's investments continue a part of USDA's mission that has brought reliable, safe and affordable electric power to America's farms, ranches and rural communities, improved the quality of life for rural residents, increased farm productivity and made America the breadbasket to the world,' said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. 'Continuing to invest in rural electric infrastructure will help keep our economy strong.'

USDA is providing $202 million in loans for six projects in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina.

The funding is administered through the Electric Program of USDA's Rural Utilities Service, the successor to the REA. The Electric Program makes loans and loan guarantees to non-profit and cooperative associations, public bodies and other utilities. The loans finance the construction of electric distribution and generation facilities in rural areas.