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Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the Rural Electrification Administration

Posted by Brandon McBride, Administrator, USDA Rural Utilities Service in Rural USDA Results
Feb 21, 2017
Agriculture State Director for New Mexico Terry Brunner speaking at the $64 million broadband fiber-to-the-home project groundbreaking ceremony
Today, USDA Rural Development is investing in smart grid and broadband to empower rural communities with state-of-the-art infrastructure for a more reliable and efficient electricity grid, like this investment in New Mexico.

May 20, 2016 is the 80th anniversary of the Rural Electrification Act of 1936.  The REA was created to bring electricity to farms. In 1936, nearly 90 percent of farms lacked electric power because the costs to get electricity to rural areas were prohibitive.

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.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (center) signing the Rural Electrification Act
Eighty years ago today, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (center) signs the Rural Electrification Act with Representative John Rankin (left) and Senator George William Norris (right).

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.”

To see more, visit: On 80th Anniversary of Rural Electrification Act, USDA Invests More Than $200 Million in Electric Infrastructure Improvements in Five States.

People with Working Together sign
For eighty years, farmers, ranchers and rural communities have been working together with USDA to bring power to rural America.
Category/Topic: Rural USDA Results

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Thomas Mackinnon
Jul 10, 2019

Celebrating something that should have ended decades ago. Happy about spending $34 billion of tax payer dollars since 2009. Funding renewable energy and smart grids? Good Grief, Why?!
Why exactly is this needed anymore? And if so, why is the government responsible for it? Do these "rural electric cooperatives" make a profit or are they subsidized with my tax dollars?
This is just another government program that never ends and sucks down more and more money each year.
This is not something to be proud of - it is just the opposite.

Jul 19, 2019

We just Googled the REA to see if it was STILL in existence (I figured it was). According to the above, 80% of rural America had electricity by 1950. Great job. A successful Federal program. Does the other 20% have it yet?

Now we do have a BIG problem with our electric grid being ancient and vulnerable to attack as illustrated by the recent blackout in NYC and MAYBE the REA would be uniquely qualified to take on that cause but that's NOT what's being done.

Honestly, if someone asked me what I did and I had to say I ran or worked for the Rural Electrification Administration, I'd be embarrassed.

Robert Chamberlin
Dec 14, 2020

A great accomplishment to provide unlimited power to rural America. Everyone whom supplied knowledge, work and the finances should all be congratulated. Sincerely,
Robert L. Chamberlin.

Jan 08, 2021

Thank you for the help but how many people actually worked for the REA?

Sherry George
Jan 18, 2022

My grandparents lived on a farm in Carroll County, Ohio during the
Great Depression, and did not have electric power in their farmhouse. They
finally were able to get the service through the government program of
the Rural Electricification Act in about 1938 -1939. They were so grateful
to get electric in the affordable way, that the great president, FDR , and
administration made possible for so many rural people with the REA program.

Apr 25, 2022

This was a very helpful article.