Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative has signed on to a letter that urges members of Congress to provide economic relief for rural America. 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. Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative provides electricity to approximately 12,900 farms, homes and businesses in eight counties. 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,” said president and CEO Rick Olesen. “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 nationwide steep drop in liquid fuel demand has resulted in a major economic impact on biofuels processing plants across the country. Estimates show as much as half of U.S. ethanol production has been idled. 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.
“Reduced ethanol production and livestock processing threatens our food and energy security, and, in turn, results in reduced electric load, a burden that ultimately falls on the individual members of an electric cooperative,” said Olesen. “The combination of these issues poses a significant threat to the overall well-being of the rural communities that we serve.”
Congress is currently considering passage of another stimulus package as the nation continues to experience significant impacts from the coronavirus pandemic. "When our Congressional delegation discusses future stimulus packages, we want our rural Ag producers and the ethanol industry to be at the top of the priority list," Olesen continued. I urge others to also reach out to Congress to ensure the needs of rural America are addressed in the package.