Earlier this week, the USDA announced investments to modernize and improve rural electric grids through 11 projects under the Electric Loan Program. The funding will benefit 460,000 rural residents and businesses in 7 Arizona, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia. Several of the loans will help expand smart grid technologies, which can be a catalyst for broadband and other telecommunications services in unserved and underserved rural areas. The funding comes just weeks after grid disruptions during a historic cold snap across the nation.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says, "These USDA investments will bring affordable electric power to rural residents," adding, "Now is the time for our nation to make significant investments in infrastructure."

USDA's Electric Loan Program helps finance wind, solar and natural gas plants, and improvements to produce clean energy from coal-fired plants. Local utilities also use the loans to invest in infrastructure to deliver affordable power to millions of residential, commercial and agricultural consumers.

If you have a story idea for the PNW Ag Network, call (509) 547-1618, or e-mail gvaagen@cherrycreekmedia.com

More From PNW Ag Network