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USDA Invests $309 Million in Rural Electric Utilities
South Dakota Ag Connection - 06/08/2018

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett Thursday announced that USDA is investing $309 million in 16 projects to improve rural electric infrastructure in 12 states.

"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 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 Thursday 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.

South Dakota is receiving two of the 16 projects Hazlett announced during her visit to Iowa. FEM Electric Association in Ipswich will use a $6 million loan to build 58 miles of line and improve 77 miles. This includes $352,600 for smart grid projects. FEM serves 1,865 residential, 19 seasonal, 23 irrigation, and 230 commercial consumers which includes over 2,060 miles of line in seven counties including Brown, Edmunds, Faulk, McPherson, Potter, Spink, and Walworth.

Douglas Electric Cooperative in Armour will use a $1.4 million loan to build new headquarters, maintenance facility, shop and a pole yard. Douglas serves 723 residential, 20 irrigation and 74 commercial consumers which includes over 504 miles of line in five counties including Aurora, Charles Mix, Davison, Douglas, and Hutchinson in southeastern South Dakota.

"Upgrading rural infrastructure is critical to our South Dakota communities," said Julie Gross, USDA Rural Development South Dakota state director. "It sets the stage for economic development and provides reliable, affordable electricity which is essential to job creation."

The loans announced Thursday 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.

Thursday'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 Secretary Perdue to make investments in rural communities with the greatest infrastructure needs.

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