WASHINGTON, D.C. -- USDA has selected 16 rural utilities and cooperatives in 10 states to receive $356 million in loans to build and repair 3,830 miles of distribution and transmission lines and make system improvements that will affect more than 45,000 rural customers.

"Investing in core rural infrastructure is a priority for the Obama Administration," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "These loans will provide affordable power by financing improvements for key generation, transmission and distribution systems to rural residents and businesses. These funds are an investment in rural America that will help strengthen rural communities."

The funding announced today is being provided through USDA Rural Development's Electric Programs, which Congress authorized under the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 to provide loans and loan guarantees to help utilities, cooperatives, states and local governments provide or improve electric service in rural areas. The Electric Programs also help finance energy conservation and renewable energy systems.

The Central Alabama Electric Cooperative in Prattville, Ala., has been selected to receive a $22.2 million loan to build or improve 159 miles of distribution lines and make other system repairs to improve service for 2,683 customers. The Victory Electric Cooperative Association, Inc. in Dodge City, Kan., has been selected to receive a $54.7 million loan to build and make improvements to 98 miles of distribution lines, acquire 678 miles of distribution and transmission lines and make other system improvements. Service will be provided to 14,481 new and existing customers.

The Western Farmers Electric Cooperative, Inc. in Andarko, Okla., has been selected to receive a $103.3 million loan to finance transmission projects including the construction of 120 miles of new lines, three switching stations, 10 new substations, and upgrades to 38 existing substations and switching stations. The projects will serve residents of Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas.

Funding of each recipient is contingent upon its meeting the conditions of the loan agreement.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. Rural Development fosters growth in home ownership, finances business development, and supports creation of critical community and technology infrastructure.