Rep. Adrian Smith’s roots run deep in rural Nebraska, where his family has made its home for six generations.

The Republican congressman grew up in the western Nebraska panhandle, connected to the electric lines of Scottsbluff-based Roosevelt Public Power District. He understands the key economic role that PPDs and electric cooperatives in Nebraska—the only state in the nation served solely by not-for-profit utilities.

“Among our members, Congressman Smith has a wonderful reputation for popping in to a PPD or electric cooperative unannounced,” says Dennis Houston, CEO of the Nebraska Rural Electric Association. “He simply wants to visit and wants to hear directly from our members what he can do to help them while he is in Washington.”

Smith’s help proved critical for co-ops in late 2019, when he played a pivotal role in winning bipartisan approval of the RURAL Act. The bill ensured that co-ops could retain their tax-exempt status when they receive government grants to restore power after storms, provide broadband service or invest in renewable energy.

As a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee that writes tax legislation, Smith worked across the aisle with Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama to ensure that the bill became law.

“When the electric cooperatives needed his help, he stepped up,” says James Dukesherer, interim director of government relations at the Nebraska Rural Electric Association.

Nebraska co-ops are turning to Smith for support once again as they, along with NRECA, urge Congress to pass legislation providing direct federal payments to help co-ops and PPDs develop renewable energy and battery storage projects.

“As Nebraska’s public power districts and electric cooperatives work to remove this barrier, Congressman Smith has been receptive to our concerns,” he says. “Hopefully, his leadership will level the playing field for Nebraska’s electric utilities when it comes to the development of energy innovation projects.”

Smith says that “public and cooperative power providers across Nebraska have ensured our families, farmers, ranchers and small businesses have access to reliable, affordable power for generations.

“We are fortunate to live in a state that is both affordable for families and a great place to do business,” he says. “And ensuring our power providers can continue serving our communities will be key to maintaining that in the future.”

In addition to championing the causes of co-ops and PPDs, Smith is a strong advocate for Nebraska farmers, pushing for trade opportunities for the state’s agricultural products throughout the world. He is the co-chairman of the House Biofuels Caucus, promoting Nebraska’s 25 active ethanol plants.