(WASHINGTON. DC) — “The economic development work in rural America is not done, and we appreciate Chairman Moran, Ranking Member Merkley and the members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture shedding light on this important topic,” said Sunflower Electric Corporation President and CEO Stuart Lowry.
Lowry, representing Sunflower and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), testified during a hearing of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration & Related Agencies, entitled “Rural Development in 21st Century America.”
Lowry called the development of electric co-ops “a perfect example of fostering rural development.” In the early 1900s, much of rural America was literally “in the dark” and unserved by private power companies. President Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration, now the Rural Utility Service (RUS), to electrify and develop rural America in 1935. Its programs have since grown to offer many tools that rural utilities use to strengthen rural America, beyond just providing electricity as initially intended.
Lowry specifically touched on the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program (REDLG). “REDLG is one of the programs that co-ops have utilized to help enhance small-town America, and Kansas is just one of the many success stories,” Lowry said. He mentioned how these programs have been used in his state to purchase ambulances, manufacturing machinery, computed tomography equipment for rural hospitals, upgrades to energy efficiency and retirement homes, among other job creating projects in rural America.
In June, NRECA convened a Rural Summit in Washington, D.C. The event gathered representatives from organizations working on rural issues from the administration in various federal departments, non-profit groups, academia, and rural leaders to hold a positive conversation about how to tackle the toughest issues facing rural communities and main street economies. Today’s hearing built on this collaboration of ideas and reiterated the importance of robust funding for REDLG, RUS, Guaranteed Underwriter Programs and Energy Efficiency Programs so that electric co-ops can continue to innovate and support rural America.
Finally, Lowry thanked the subcommittee and full committee for their support. “Sunflower, NRECA, and co-ops across the country greatly appreciate this subcommittee and the full committee’s support for funding the RUS electric loan program at the $6 billion level for FY16. Thank you for recognizing the value that the electric program and co-ops provide to approximately 42 million people every day.”
Sunflower Electric Power Corporation is a regional wholesale generation and transmission supplier that operates a system of wind, gas, and coal-based generating plants and a 2,300-mile transmission system for the needs of its member cooperatives who serve in central and western Kansas. Sunflower’s member cooperatives include Lane-Scott Electric Cooperative Inc., Dighton; Pioneer Electric Cooperative Inc., Ulysses; Prairie Land Electric Cooperative Inc., Norton; The Victory Electric Cooperative Association Inc., Dodge City; Western Cooperative Electric Association Inc., WaKeeney; and Wheatland Electric Cooperative Inc., Scott City, Kansas.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.