LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that 58 rural utilities and cooperatives in 33 states have been selected to receive $2.4 billion in loans and loan guarantees to build and repair over 12,000 miles of distribution and transmission lines and make system improvements that will benefit almost 113,000 rural customers.

Vilsack made the announcement during a Rural Tour stop in Las Cruces, N.M., as part of the Obama Administration's effort to develop infrastructure and build the economy of rural communities.

"President Obama and I understand the importance of repairing America's infrastructure to the long-term health and prosperity of our rural communities," said Vilsack. "These loans and guarantees will help rural utilities improve services, support renewable energy efforts, and create jobs across the country.

Several of the loan guarantees support renewable energy ventures. For instance in Fitzgerald, Ga., Fitzgerald Renewable Energy LLC has been selected to receive a $139 million loan guarantee to build a biomass-fueled power generating facility. The plant will utilize locally produced wood fuel waste to generate 55 megawatts of renewable electric power. The fuel typically will be waste wood provided by vendors within 50 miles of community.

Multitrade Rabun Gap LLC, located in Rabun Gap, Ga., has been selected to receive a $20.7 million loan guarantee to construct and operate a 17 megawatt wood-fueled biomass facility. The facility has a significant amount of existing equipment already on site, including a wood-fired boiler that was previously used to supply steam and electricity to a textile manufacturing operation. The new biomass facility will use native renewable fuel from the local forest industry and is expected to sell power to a Georgia cooperative under a long-term power purchase agreement.

These loans and loan guarantees are part of USDA Rural Development's annual budget and are not funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.