Stephens Testifies on Behalf of Co-ops Across the Country
Thursday, September 28, 2017
Posted by: Terri Statham
TUCKER, Ga., Sep. 28, 2017—At the request of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Coweta-Fayette Electric Membership Cooperative President/CEO Chris Stephens testified before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.
The Committee held the hearing to review rural development and energy programs within the 2014 Farm Bill. In his testimony, Stephens highlighted the value of the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) program and other programs offered by USDA Rural Development which provide essential assistance to rural America.
“We are a healthy nation because we have vibrant, bustling urban cities AND because we have verdant, productive rural areas,” Stephens noted. “Unfortunately, whether it’s infrastructure or jobs or access to health care, it seems that too often rural America gets the short end of the stick. The Farm Bill is important legislation that helps to address some of those disparities.”
Stephens also said a word about Hurricane Irma which knocked out power to more than 1.5 million Georgians, including 550,000 EMC customers. More than 4,500 linemen from 18 states participated in the massive effort to restore service to 99 percent of EMC outages within five days of the outage peak and full restoration within seven days.
“I think the quality of this response is a testament to the power of the cooperative spirit and some of the best evidence (at the worst of times) of how vital electric cooperatives are to the communities they serve,” Stephens said.
A number of distinguished panelists testified before the Committee including the Assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development, and the three Acting Administrators for the Rural Utilities Service, Rural Housing Service, and Rural Business Cooperative Service.
The 2014 Farm Bill reauthorizes and/or amends rural development loan and grant programs and authorizes several new provisions, including rural infrastructure, economic development, and broadband and telecommunications development.
Stephens’ testimony will help lay important groundwork before the Committee begins crafting the 2018 Farm Bill to improve on current initiatives and grow more opportunities for rural communities across the country.
“It is critical the next Farm Bill works to support rural businesses, cooperatives, health clinics, schools, renewable energy and bio-based product manufacturers, and other essential services providers that serve as the backbone of the communities our farmers and ranchers call home,” noted Committee Chairman and U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) in prepared remarks.
Georgia EMC is the statewide trade association representing the state’s 41 EMCs, Oglethorpe Power Corp., Georgia Transmission Corp. and Georgia System Operations Corp. Collectively, Georgia’s customer-owned EMCs provide electricity and related services to 4.4 million people, nearly half of Georgia’s population, across 73 percent of the state’s land area.