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Posts tagged: Hilda Gay Legg

From REA to RUS-75 Years of Lighting the Way for Rural America

By Jonathan Adelstein, Administrator-USDA Rural Utilities Service

If you lived in a rural area 75 years ago, you probably didn’t have electricity. Water for livestock, cooking, cleaning and bathing had to be hand pumped from a well. Farmers risked milk spoilage in the summer, and people often got sick from lack of refrigeration of their food.

 On May 11, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order to create the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) to bring power to rural areas. It was a resounding success.  Nothing before or since has transformed rural America like the REA.  Today’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), part of the USDA Rural Development mission area, continues the work of REA. Just this week, four former REA and RUS administrators gathered in USDA’s radio studio, reflecting on their roles from 1993 to the present. Their observations will soon be available via podcast.

 Rural Development, through RUS, is aggressively building a program to finance renewable energy, and rural America is rapidly becoming a greater energy producer for the nation. Not only is this part of President Obama’s clean energy economy, but it will also create quality jobs in rural America.  Working with other federal agencies, rural electric cooperatives and other utilities, we are taking steps to modernize the electric grid and improve energy efficiency.

 While working to improve electric transmission services we are also meeting a new challenge: Delivering broadband to rural communities.  Without broadband, rural businesses are placed at a disadvantage and our children face diminished educational opportunities. Our next great achievement will be to build a system that will connect even the most remote places in America to the web. 

 Rural America’s future is bright, thanks to the thousands of men and women who have worked in or with the REA and now the RUS over the past three-quarters of a century.

 Chances are, if you live in rural America, some of those people are your neighbors, as close as your local electric cooperative.  They achieved a modern miracle, lighting rural America. This week, take a minute and think about all the good they’ve done.  They’ve achieved the greatest success in a government technology program of all time.   

75th Anniversary of REA/RUS 
 (Left to right) Christopher McLean, Administrator,  2000-2001; Wally Beyer 1993-1999; James Andrew 2005-2009;  Glenn English (CEO-NRECA);  Hilda Gay Legg 2001-2005; Jonathan Adelstein 2009 – present; Dallas Tonsager (Undersecretary, USDA Rural Development); gathered on May 4 at the U.S. Capitol for an event marking the beginnings of the effort to bring electricity to rural America.