Arkansas Living September 2012 : Page-4
&200(176 &HOHEUDWLQJ5XUDO(OHFWULILFDWLRQ In 1924, then New York Gov. Franklin Roosevelt got an electric bill for his rural cottage in Warm Springs, Ga. The rate was 18 cents per kilowatt-hour, a high rate both then and now. It was about 18 times the rate he paid in the city at Hyde Park, N.Y. At that point, Roos-evelt said he decided he had to do something about the high electric rates for rural areas, noting that “a little cottage at Warm Springs, Ga., was the birthplace of the Rural Electri-ﬁ cation Administration (REA).” Eleven years later, on May 11, 1935, Roosevelt kept his promise when as president he created the REA as part of his New Deal program. The REA was needed to help bring electricity to rural America because private power companies refused to do so on the grounds that it wasn’t economically feasible. They wouldn’t even commit to building rural lines with REA loan funds. Instead, it was farmer-owned coop-eratives, organized to apply for REA loans, that would lead the movement. With the signing of the Rural Electriﬁ cation Act, Roos-evelt paved the way for the development two years later of seven electric cooperatives in Arkansas. At the time, only 1.5 percent of the farms in Arkansas had access to power line electricity. Leading the way in the formation of the coop-eratives were the Farm B ureau and the Agricultural Exten-sion Service of the University of Arkansas. The Farm Bureau took on rural electriﬁ cation as one of its main programs, and its ofﬁ cials played a major role in organizing the co-ops. The extension service joined right in, using its county agents and home demonstration agents to spread the word about elec-tricity. The ﬁ rst electric co-op in Arkansas was the aptly named First Electric Cooperative, identiﬁ ed by the REA as “Arkan-sas 10 Pulaski.” This year, the Arkansas electric distribution cooperatives formed in 1937 are celebrating their 75 th anniversaries. They are, in addition to Jacksonville-based First Electric, Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative based in Ozark, Carroll Electric Cooperative based in Berryville, Craighead Electric Coop-erative based in Jonesboro, Farmers Electric Cooperative based in Newport, Southwest Arkansas Electric Coopera-tive based in Texarkana and Woodruff Electric Cooperative based in Forrest City. The remaining 10 electric coopera-tives will reach the 75-year plateau soon. Little Rock-based Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., (AECI) which was formed by the state’s electric distribution co-ops to provide various services, including the production of Arkansas Liv-ing magazine, is celebrating its 70 th year. These co-ops are celebrating this important milestone in various ways, including the production of publications chronicling their histories. And there is much to celebrate. From their humble beginnings, Arkansas’ 17 electric coop-eratives have grown to provide low-cost and reliable electric service to about 500,000 members across Arkansas and in surrounding states. Based on the 2012 Arkansas Business survey of the 75 largest private businesses in Arkansas, the electric cooperatives in Arkansas are the second largest pri-vate business interest in the state. Simply put, there is no better success story for the na-tion’s rural electriﬁ cation program than Arkansas. We think President Roosevelt would be proud. • 4 , $5.$16$6/,9,1* SEPTEMBER 2012 FDR Library
Celebrating Rural Electrification
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