WASHINGTON (KWES) - The United States Department of Agriculture is investing $485 million to upgrade rural electric systems and reduce energy costs.

The funding includes nearly $7.1 million for smart grid technologies that improve system operations and monitor grid security.

“These loans will enhance rural economic development and help improve the quality of life for people who live and work in rural America,” said Acting Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Joel Baxley.

USDA is providing financing through the Electric Loan Program to improve rural electric infrastructure in Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.

These investments will help build or improve 2,635 miles of line.

In Texas, $31,254,000 will be given to Heart of Texas Electric Cooperative Inc. to build or improve 1,597 miles of line, improving service to 2,582 consumers.

The loan includes $1.23 million in smart grid technologies.

Heart of Texas serves 21,300 consumers over 3,750 miles of line.

In New Mexico a $1,200,000 electric loan was made by Rural Development to finance the construction of a 1.3-megawatt solar farm located in the village of Eagle Nest in Colfax County.

The solar farm consists of 4,032 solar panels covering 8 acres which was built by Parasol Solar late last year.

The solar farm is currently up and running and provides enough electricity to power 250 homes.

The electricity is being made available to customers of Kit Carson Electric Co-Operative based in Taos, New Mexico.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities.

In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump.

These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America.

Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB).

In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic.

For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.