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Rural Electrification Act

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Rural Electrification Act
Great Seal of the United States
Other short titlesRural Electrification and Telephone Service Act of 1936
Long titleAn Act to provide for rural electrification, and for other purposes.
NicknamesRural Electrification Act of 1936
Enacted bythe 74th United States Congress
EffectiveMay 20, 1936
Public lawPub. L.Tooltip Public Law (United States) 74–605
Statutes at Large49 Stat. 1363
Titles amended7 U.S.C.: Agriculture
U.S.C. sections created7 U.S.C. ch. 31 § 901 et seq.
Legislative history
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (center) signs the Rural Electrification Act with Representative John Rankin (left) and Senator George William Norris (right)

The Rural Electrification Act of 1936, enacted on May 20, 1936, provided federal loans for the installation of electrical distribution systems to serve isolated rural areas of the United States.

The funding was channeled through cooperative electric power companies, hundreds of which still exist today.[1] These member-owned cooperatives purchased power on a wholesale basis and distributed it using their own network of transmission and distribution lines. The Rural Electrification Act was one of many New Deal proposals by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to remedy high unemployment during the Great Depression.


On May 11, 1935, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 7037, which created the Rural Electrification Administration.[2][3] In 1936, the Congress endorsed Roosevelt's action by passing the Rural Electrification Act. At the time the Rural Electrification Act was passed, electricity was commonplace in cities but largely unavailable in farms, ranches, and other rural places. Representative John E. Rankin[4] and Senator George William Norris[5] were supporters of the Rural Electrification Act, which was signed into law by Roosevelt on May 20, 1936.

Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn was a major proponent of the REA, which he helped pass in 1936 as Chairman of the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee. Rayburn stated in 1959 that ninety percent of farm homes in the U.S. were electrified, compared to three percent in the early 1930s.[6]

Technical issues[edit]

In the 1930s, the provision of power to remote areas was not thought to be economically feasible.[7] A 2300 volt distribution system was then used in cities. This relatively low voltage could be carried only about 4 miles before the voltage drop became unacceptable. REA cooperatives used a 6900 volt distribution network (soon changed to the present-day 12,470/7200V 4-wire Y system), which could support much longer runs (up to about 40 miles). Despite requiring more expensive transformers at each home, the overall system cost was manageable.[8]

Wiring homes and farms[edit]

REA crews traveled through the American countryside, bringing teams of electricians along with them. The electricians added wiring to houses and barns to utilize the newly available power provided by the line crews. A standard REA installation in a house (post World War II) consisted of:

  1. A 60 amp range circuit
  2. A 20 amp kitchen circuit
  3. Two or three 15 amp lighting circuits

A ceiling-mounted light fixture was installed in each room, usually controlled by a single switch mounted near a door. At most, one outlet was installed per room, since plug-connected appliances were expensive and uncommon. Wiring was performed using type NM (nonmetallic sheathed cable), insulated with asbestos-reinforced rubber covered with jute and tar.

Many of these original installations still exist today, though most have been augmented to support a greater number and variety of appliances.

Later amendments[edit]

Some amendments to the Rural Electrification Act include:

  • 1944: loan terms increased to 35 years, the act is made permanent[9]
  • 1949: extended the act to allow loans to telephone companies wishing to extend their connections to unconnected rural areas[10]
  • 1993: Provisions to restructure the direct loan programs for rural electricity, telephone cooperatives, and energy conservation market[11]
  • December 8, 1993: "North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act"—The "Buy American" provision to now include Mexico and Canada.
  • 2008: Provisions for access to rural broadband telecommunications network and rural internet
  • 2014: Pilot program for rural gigabit broadband network
Date of Enactment Public Law Number U.S. Statute Citation U.S. Legislative Bill U.S. Presidential Administration
September 21, 1944 P.L. 78-425 58 Stat. 734 H.R. 4278 Franklin D. Roosevelt
October 28, 1949 P.L. 81-423 63 Stat. 948 H.R. 2960 Harry S. Truman
June 15, 1955 P.L. 84–70 69 Stat. 131 S. 153 Dwight D. Eisenhower
October 23, 1962 P.L. 87-862 76 Stat. 1140 H.R. 10708 John F. Kennedy
May 7, 1971 P.L. 92–12 85 Stat. 29 S. 70 Richard M. Nixon
June 30, 1972 P.L. 92-324 86 Stat. 390 H.R. 14423 Richard M. Nixon
May 11, 1973 P.L. 93–32 87 Stat. 65 S. 394 Richard M. Nixon
November 4, 1975 P.L. 94–124 89 Stat. 677 H.R. 4799 Gerald R. Ford
October 20, 1976 P.L. 94-570 90 Stat. 2701 H.R. 12207 Gerald R. Ford
May 25, 1984 P.L. 98-300 98 Stat. 215 H.R. 2211 Ronald W. Reagan
October 21, 1992 P.L. 102–428 106 Stat. 2183 H.R. 5237 George H.W. Bush
November 1, 1993 P.L. 103–129 107 Stat. 1356 H.R. 3123 William J. Clinton
December 17, 1993 P.L. 103–201 107 Stat. 2342 H.R. 3514 William J. Clinton
June 18, 2008 P.L. 110–246 122 Stat. 1651 H.R. 6124 George W. Bush
February 7, 2014 P.L. 113–79 128 Stat. 649 H.R. 2642 Barack H. Obama II

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tim Sablik, “Electrifying Rural America”, ‘’Econ Focus’’, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, First Quarter 2020.
  2. ^ Rural Electrification Act. Ohio History Central.
  3. ^ Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John T. "Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Executive Order 7037 Establishing the Rural Electrification Administration.," May 11, 1935". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara. Retrieved 3 July 2016.
  4. ^ "RJohn Elliott Rankin (1936)". Mississippi Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 9, 2021.
  5. ^ "RURAL ELECTRIFICATION ACT (1936)". livingnewdeal.org/. Retrieved November 9, 2021.
  6. ^ Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  7. ^ "Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the Rural Electrification Administration". USDA. Retrieved November 9, 2021.
  8. ^ "The Rural Electrification Act". Harrison Rural Electrification Association, Inc. Retrieved 2021-11-09.
  9. ^ Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John T. "Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Statement on Signing a Rural Electrification Bill.," September 22, 1944". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara. Retrieved 3 July 2016.
  10. ^ Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John T. "Harry S. Truman: "Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Providing for Improved Rural Telephone Facilities.," October 28, 1949". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara. Retrieved 3 July 2016.
  11. ^ Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John T. "William J. Clinton: "Statement on Signing the Rural Electrification Loan Restructuring Act of 1993," November 1, 1993". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara. Retrieved 4 July 2016.

External links[edit]