Farmers and rural residents organized the first rural electric cooperatives in the 1930s as a means to receive electric power. In those days, private power companies found providing electricity to such sparsely populated areas just too expensive. With the help of the Rural Electrification Act, signed by Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, cooperative leaders borrowed funds from the Rural Electrification Administration to finance the construction of power lines and the purchase of electric power for rural people.
Howard Electric Cooperative was incorporated in 1936 to serve member-consumers in Howard County. Today Howard Electric also serves consumers in southeastern Chariton County, southern Randolph County and northwestern Boone County. Howard Electric is one of 41 distribution cooperatives in Missouri.
As a cooperative, Howard Electric operates on a non-profit basis. All revenue above the cost of doing business (margins) is assigned to the members under a patronage refund plan called capital credits. The cooperative assigned capital credits annually and keeps a careful record of each member's investment in the co-op.