WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that 37 rural utilities and cooperatives in 29 states have been selected to receive more than $1 billion in loans to build and repair more than 10,000 miles of distribution and transmission lines and make system improvements that will benefit 60,000 rural customers.

"President Obama is delivering on his commitment to invest in rural America's infrastructure by funding upgrades to rural utilities and cooperatives," Vilsack said. "Rural communities need affordable up-to-date electric service in order to broaden economic opportunities. These loans will enable cooperatives to deliver improved service to more customers."

These investments help rural electric cooperative utilities continue to provide reliable and affordable electric power to their communities. Rural electric cooperatives are nationally-recognized as leaders in energy efficiency and demand management practices. To date, 402 rural electric cooperatives have used USDA Rural Development's Energy Resources Conservation program to increase energy efficiency, conservation and demand management initiatives.

The funding announced today is being provided through USDA Rural Development's Electric Programs which provides loans and loan guarantees to help utilities, cooperatives, states and local governments provide or improve electric service in rural areas. The Electric Program also helps finance energy conservation and renewable energy systems.

For example, the Delaware Electric Cooperative, Inc. in Greenwood, Del., has been selected to receive a $21 million loan to build and improve 717 miles of distribution lines and make system improvements for more then 6,225 new and existing customers. The West Central Electric Cooperative, Inc., in Higginsville, Mo., been selected to receive a $12.9 million loan to build and make improvements to 169 miles of distribution and transmission lines and make other system improvements. As a result, service will be provided to 1,059 new and existing customers.

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