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Release No.STELPRD4017326
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(JULY 12, 2012) AGRICULTURE SECRETARY VILSACK ANNOUNCES FUNDING TO IMPROVE RURAL ELECTRIC INFRASTRUCTURE
Temple, Texas, Jul 12, 2012 --

@@Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that rural electric cooperatives and utilities in 15 states will receive loan guarantees to make improvements to generation and transmission facilities and implement smart grid technologies.

“Maintaining and upgrading rural electric systems creates jobs and supports economic development,” Vilsack said. “These loans I am announcing today will have a lasting impact on the rural landscape for generations to come. They will help ensure that rural areas can retain existing businesses, support new ones and have reliable, up-to-date infrastructure.”

With this funding, USDA Rural Development moves closer to reaching Secretary Vilsack’s goal to fund more than $250 million for smart grid technologies. Today’s announcement includes support for more than $10 million in smart grid technologies, which help utilities make efficiency improvements to the electric grid and help consumers lower their electric bills by reducing energy use in homes and businesses.

In Texas, Houston County Electric Cooperative was awarded almost $9 million in funding through this announcement. Funds will be used to build and improve 421 miles of distribution line and make other system improvements, serving 2,000 customers. The loan includes $670,000 in smart grid projects.

“Electric cooperatives provide a vital service to rural Texas communities,” said Paco Valentin, USDA Rural Development Texas State Director. “USDA Rural Development is pleased to assist Houston County Electric Cooperative, Inc., to improve the efficiency of valuable and reliable services to rural homeowners, farms and businesses.”

The $287 million in loan guarantees announced today are provided by USDA Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS). The funding helps electric utilities upgrade, expand, maintain and replace rural America’s electric infrastructure. USDA Rural Development also funds energy conservation and renewable energy projects.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $170 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas.