As late as the mid-1930s, nine out of 10 rural homes were without electric service. The farmer milked his cows by hand in the dim light of a kerosene lantern. His wife was a slave to the wood range and washboard.
The unavailability of electricity in rural areas kept their economies entirely and exclusively dependent on agriculture. Factories and businesses, of course, preferred to locate in cities where electric power was easily acquired. For many years, power companies ignored the rural areas of the nation.
Rural Electrification Administration
The idea of providing federal assistance to accomplish rural electrification gained ground rapidly when President Roosevelt took office in 1933. On May 11, 1935, Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 7037 establishing the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). It was not until a year later that the Rural Electrification Act was passed, and the lending program that became the REA got underway.
Within four years following the close of the war, the number of rural electric systems in operation doubled, the number of consumers connected more than tripled, and the miles of energized line grew more than five-fold. By 1953, more than 90 percent of U.S. farms had electricity.
Today about 99 percent of the nation’s farms have electric service. Most rural electrification is the product of locally owned rural electric cooperatives that got their start by borrowing funds from REA to build lines and provide service on a not-for-profit basis. Today REA is the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Buffalo Electric Cooperative
Buffalo Electric Co-op was a nonprofit electric distribution cooperative that was incorporated in June 1937 and then reincorporated on January 30, 1937 under the direction of the Rural Electrification Act. Buffalo Electric energized its first power lines March 14, 1938 .
Trempealeau Electric Cooperative
Trempealeau Electric Cooperative was incorporated in the spring of 1936 as Trempealeau County rural Electric Cooperative. On February 9, 1937, the board of directors met to reincorporate the cooperative as Trempealeau Electric Cooperative.
Riverland Energy Cooperative
In the late 1990’s, the threat of deregulation swept the countryside. This prompted lengthy studies and discussions between the boards of Trempealeau Electric and Buffalo Electric Cooperatives on the virtue of a merger between the two.
On June 1, 1999, the merger became a reality and Riverland Energy Cooperative was formed, comprised of Buffalo and Trempealeau Electric Cooperatives.