Editorial: May 2017
NDAREC takes advocacy to nation's capital
Recently, I accompanied nearly 50 of your friends and neighbors representing North Dakota rural electric cooperatives on an important trip to Washington, D.C. We went there to meet with elected leaders and policymakers about the important need to keep our cooperatives and rural America in mind when crafting laws and regulations, and determining budget priorities that impact us.
The visits were part of the annual legislative conference hosted by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Our voice was amplified greatly as we joined more than 2,000 other electric co-op leaders from across the country, all meeting with policymakers about our common interests, our priorities and how our cooperatives provide the benefits of operating as locally controlled, consumer-owned cooperative businesses.
As consumer-owned utilities, one of our core common messages is that our cooperatives are uniquely positioned to respond to member needs and interests. That local control gives cooperatives the flexibility to pursue innovations, and to adapt, as we meet the future energy needs of our members.
During our visit, we provided specific examples on the positive impacts the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its programs focusing on a vibrant rural America have in our state. Specifically, we urged continued support for USDA Rural Development and its Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) and Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant (REDLG) programs. Through our partnership with USDA, and the RCDG program, the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives has assisted many business enterprises, and community economic development projects. Ninety-six percent of them are still operational. These projects advance health care, day care, food distribution and housing, among other economic betterment areas. Through these programs, we have leveraged combined investments of nearly $619 million.
In addition, through the USDA REDLG program, in partnership with your rural electric and telecommunications cooperatives, we have been providing loans that provide funding to community economic development projects. These loans go to projects meant to create and retain employment in rural areas. To date, NDAREC has assisted local electric and telecommunications cooperatives in the issuance of 109 REDLG loans, totaling $40.3 million in financial capital essential to the success of rural projects.
We want to recognize and express our gratitude to the state’s congressional delegation: Senator John Hoeven, Senator Heidi Heitkamp and Representative Kevin Cramer, for their support in the past and we will need to call upon our delegation again for support to maintain these programs. Unfortunately, we often fail to realize how important such programs are to us until they are gone. That is why, during our recent work in Washington, D.C., we were unified and sincere in conveying messages about what is important to us. We are proud to wage this fight on behalf of our members, our communities and our way of life.