WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has announced that $263,513,000 in electric loans will be provided to utilities to upgrade services and facilities in nine states.

"Each day, all across rural America, electric cooperatives provide reliable service to their members," said Johanns. "The funds provided by these loans will enable electric cooperatives to expand and continue the important work they do, powering homes, farms and rural communities."

Through USDA Rural Development's Utilities Program, loans and loan guarantees are made to finance the construction or replacement of electric transmission and generation facilities. In the past six years, Rural Development has provided more than 900 loans for more than $19 billion through the Electric Loan Program.

Much of the funding will be used to build new power lines. The Benton Rural Electric Association of Washington State will build 40 miles of lines in three counties to serve about 800 new customers. In North Carolina, EnergyUnited Electric Membership Corporation will build almost 400 miles of new distribution and transmission lines in 19 counties, serving over 14,000 consumers. In Maryland, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, Inc. will build 630 miles of new distribution lines and make other system improvements to serve over 13,400 new customers.

USDA Rural Development's mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life in rural communities. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA's Web site.

SOURCE: USDA news release.