Over 30 rural electric cooperatives serving members across the Upper Midwest have signed on to a letter urging members of Congress to provide economic relief for rural America. The letter was addressed to members of Congress from Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska.
Specifically, the letter calls for Congress to support additional stimulus package relief for food and ethanol processing plants, and the farmers and ranchers who serve them, most of whom are also electric cooperative members. The electric cooperatives represented on the letter combined serve over 3 million consumers across the region.
“We are respectfully requesting much-needed economic relief for rural America, which continues to suffer from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic,” the letter said. “Rural electric cooperatives were created to provide electricity to farms and rural communities and have continued to expand this essential service as rural America has grown and prospered. Our member-owners have invested in not only the electric infrastructure through their cooperative to serve these areas, but also in helping to develop the rural economy in which they live. These investments have allowed for diversification into biofuels, food processing, and other business development opportunities.”
The letter was driven by Basin and East River Electric Power Cooperatives who provide power to 30 U.S. ethanol plants. East River is a founding member of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE).
Estimates show as much as half of U.S. ethanol production has been idled due to efforts to slow spread of COVID-19. In addition, the pandemic has forced several food processing facilities to either idle or shut down. These events have left producers of several agricultural commodities without a market for their product, forcing some to euthanize animals or destroy their products. The pandemic has compounded the impacts of low commodity prices and extreme weather events that had already created a struggling farm and rural economy.