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Montana Ag Network: Electric co-ops urging Congress to pass RURAL Act

Posted at 6:38 AM, May 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-02 12:02:45-04

HUNTLEY- Members of Montana’s electric cooperatives are in Washington, D.C., this week to urge members of Congress to pass the Revitalizing Underdeveloped Rural Areas and Lands Act.

The legislation, known as the RURAL Act, was written to fix an unintended consequence of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that they say puts many rural electric cooperatives in financial jeopardy.

The legislation will ensure that electric cooperatives won’t put their tax-exempt status in jeopardy when they accept government grants for things like expanding broadband or restoring power after storms and other disasters.

Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative CEO and General Manager Brandon Wittman says the RURAL Act will fix this problem.

“The 85-15 status of being tax exempt means that 85 percent of their revenue for electric co-ops must come from their members,” said Wittman. “So, if they delve into another business, they to be very careful about the funds they received to build that business and then the income that they receive too. And so, this H.R. 2417 is a remedy for the problem that that creates.”

He says electric cooperatives are a very important component of Rural America and that’s why they’re asking lawmakers for help.

“It’s just a huge deal for Rural America,” said Wittman. “You think about the small towns and the farms and ranches across the entire country that are served by electric co-ops. There are about 900 electric co-ops across the country that serve over 50 million people.”

Agriculture groups are urging members of Congress to pass the rural act as soon as possible to help ensure rural America and of course the farmers and ranchers that live out here continue to have access to reliable electricity and internet.

The calling on the Capitol is part of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s spring legislative fly-in.

-Russell Nemetz reporting for MTN News