Welcome to Federal Credit Fridays! The U.S. government is one of the largest lenders and credit guarantors on earth. Its portfolio is estimated at over $3.6 trillion, as measured by loan assets and the face value of loan guarantees. The government uses credit for a wide variety of policy missions, including housing, higher education, small businesses, rural and urban economic development, infrastructure, and export promotion, among others. This podcast will familiarize you with the vast world of federal credit, and we hope that you’ll learn about similarities and differences between these programs as well as the importance of their work to achieving policy missions within the framework of public-private collaboration.
In today’s podcast, Andrew Berke discusses the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service, which provides financing for critical infrastructure or infrastructure improvements to rural communities. These include water and waste treatment, electric power and telecommunications services, and broadband access. This financing helps expand economic opportunities and improve the quality of life for rural residents. The Rural Utilities Service, where Berke is administrator, is part of USDA’s Rural Development, which is the same size as the United States’ ninth-largest commercial lender when measured by its loan balance sheet.
Prior to accepting the appointment as administrator, Berke served nearly three decades as an elected official. He was the Mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee, from 2013 to 2021 and a member of the Tennessee State Senate from 2007 to 2012. In the latter role, he worked closely with electric cooperatives. Just prior to joining Rural Development, Berke was a Special Representative for Broadband at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce. And perhaps most importantly, he is a native Tennessean, just like me. Listen below and let us know what you think.