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Harvest Public Media reports on food systems, agriculture and rural issues through a collaborative network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest and Plains.

Rural America Gets Financial Boost From USDA Investment In Renewable Energy

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Renewable energy in the Midwest and Great Plains is getting a big financial boost from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The department announced Thursday that it’s investing $464 million in solar, wind and other renewable energy projects across rural America. Nearly half of that will go to projects in the Midwest and Great Plains.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said investing in clean energy is a win-win for producers and consumers.

"This essentially creates an opportunity for us to get that kind of renewable energy going more quickly at a little bit less cost, which obviously keeps the cost down to the consumers," said Vilsack.

Vilsack said this investment will also help rural economies grow.

"I think there’s a recognition and appreciation that climate-smart infrastructure can lower energy costs for rural small businesses and farming operations. It can also spur economic development," said Vilsack.

Renewable energy projects in the Midwest will receive $200 million in loans — the biggest one being a 99-megawatt solar photovoltaic farm in Perry County, Illinois.

Another one of the largest loans — $88.7 million — will go to Central Rural Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Stillwater, to improve 179 miles of electric line in north-central Oklahoma.

Two other loans will go to Oklahoma projects:

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