After the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) was signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on May 11, 1935, rural electric cooperatives were soon formed across our state. A state association, the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives (AEIC), was soon created and a statewide magazine was one of the first priorities.
Seventy-five years ago, Illinois REA News published its first edition on May 20, 1943. It was only the second statewide rural electric magazine in the country (the cheese heads in Wisconsin were first!) Illinois REA News was mailed monthly to 58,000 households, whereas today this magazine reaches 188,000-member households.
Throughout its 75-year history, the magazine has been a unified, grassroots voice for rural electrification. It’s hard to imagine now the struggles faced by those early pioneers – resistance from the for-profit large utilities, shortage of materials and economic stress, and doubt if farmers and rural people could manage a member-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperative. The magazine championed the cause for rural electrification and provided positive support that helped build a rural economy.
Over the years, the magazine has kept members informed about the progress of important legislative issues on state and federal levels, including landmark legislations, such as the Electric Supplier Act of 1965 and Utility Deregulation in the 1990s. In those early days, calls to action were announced to encourage members to contact members of Congress and Presidents, who tried to cut funding for the REA loans.
The magazine’s objective has always been the same – to be the voice of rural Illinois, promoting the safe and efficient use of energy that would, in time, provide for the economic development of those served by cooperative lines. We have worked closely with your rural electric cooperative, its generation and transmission cooperative power supplier, and other electric cooperative organizations to achieve this purpose.
In January 1996, the first issue of this format, Illinois Country Living, was mailed. The new design allowed for more local news and included more general information, including a guest commentary, columns of horticulture, safety, energy, technology, cooking, economic development initiatives and personal finance, all in an attempt to broaden the appeal of the magazine.
In today’s digital age, the magazine can also be read online (www.icl.coop) and individual articles are posted on various social media outlets. Thank you for being a loyal reader of Illinois Country Living magazine. Seventy-five years later, it is still our goal to be the voice, your voice, for rural Illinois.