Lucas Ingvoldstad, USDA-RD State Director for Nevada

RCAC presents an ongoing series of discussions featuring state directors from the United States Department of Agriculture-Rural Development. Our series provides a glimpse into USDA RD’s priorities and showcases the dedication of state directors in serving rural communities within our region.

In this issue, we speak with Lucas Ingvoldstad, USDA-RD State Director for Nevada.

Born and raised in Reno, Nevada, Ingvoldstad has focused his career on improving rural communities’ well-being and economic status. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a Master of Science in land use planning policy from the University of Nevada, Reno. His academic efforts earned him recognition in 2016 as the Young Alumni of the Year by the College of Science and the Mackay School of Earth Sciences for early contributions to his field.

Ingvoldstad has held critical roles in rural development, public policy and renewable energy. Before his current position, he was the Senior Director of Government and External Affairs for Eolus North America. In this capacity, he managed utility-scale renewable energy projects, including solar, wind and battery storage, primarily in the Mountain West. His responsibilities included developing legislative and regulatory strategies and liaising with elected officials to promote renewable energy, address climate change and stimulate economic growth.

Working as a senior advisor for U.S. Majority Leader Harry Reid, Ingvoldstad’s work emphasized energy, agriculture and natural resources. He engaged directly with Nevada’s rural communities, addressing essential matters like energy, public lands, water, and natural resources, and coordinating with Native American tribes. His efforts in organizing key events, such as the Lake Tahoe Summits and the National Clean Energy Summits, highlighted his dedication to environmental conservation and sustainable development.

In his current role, Ingvoldstad will draw on his extensive experience to enhance rural prosperity in Nevada. His priorities include climate-smart infrastructure and sustainable economic initiatives, addressing the specific needs of Nevada’s Indigenous and rural communities.

RCAC: Thank you for your time, Director Ingvoldstad! Firstly, what do you see as some of the most pressing challenges for rural development in Nevada today, and how is USDA-RD addressing these?

Lucas Ingvoldstad: As the lead agency to grow rural prosperity in Nevada, USDA-RD provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs and improve rural quality of life across every aspect of a community, from infrastructure to business development.

We’re extremely proud of the investments the Biden-Harris Administration has made in rural Nevada. The Silver State is more poised than ever for economic growth, but as State Director, it’s critical to me that every community has access to the resources they need. Rural communities should be able to benefit from the same opportunities and markets available in urban areas; rural families should be able to raise their children in safe, affordable homes, and know that as these children grow, they can find economic opportunities in the communities they’ve spent their lives in and want to continue to live in.

A key component to empowering rural communities is ensuring that all Nevadans have access to high-speed internet. Affordable and available internet through USDA’s ReConnect program helps Nevadans participate in more markets, bolsters local economy and tourism and provides wider and deeper educational and vocational opportunities. USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program additionally provides infrastructure and equipment to ensure that distance is no barrier to education or primary care in rural communities.

The Biden-Harris Administration has and will remain committed to closing the digital gap in rural Nevada. Through the Internet for All Initiative, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, every Nevadan will have access to high-speed internet by the end of the decade, and with it, access to more and better markets, healthcare and opportunities.

RCAC: How do you envision renewable energy being a game-changer for rural Nevada, particularly in terms of economic and energy sustainability?

Lucas Ingvoldstad: Nevada is unique among many states for its incredibly varied and abundant natural resources. Renewable energy sources such as solar, battery energy storage, geothermal and wind gain increased traction for industrial and private use every day.

Nonetheless, rural communities in Nevada still face issues in accessing reliable and affordable electricity. Rural families must have the ability to power their homes, and the Empowering Rural America (New ERA) program and the Powering Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) program offer an incredible chance to provide that power sustainably and economically. Both programs were created through the Inflation Reduction Act – a key priority of the Biden-Harris Administration – and represent the single largest investment in rural electrification since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act into law in 1936.

Through PACE, six new clean energy and/or energy storage projects have been proposed in Nevada for a total of $269,177,752 in potential funding. New ERA, alternatively, provides funding for rural electric cooperatives to support the transition to clean energy, with five potential projects in Nevada requesting a total of $196,974,426.

This historic investment represents the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to ensuring rural communities receive affordable and reliable renewable energy, while economically benefitting local rural cooperatives as well as tribes and utility districts.

RCAC: Could you elaborate on the plans for implementing climate-smart infrastructure in Nevada’s rural areas? What positive outcomes do you anticipate from these efforts?

Lucas Ingvoldstad: USDA-RD currently offers the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to provide funding for agricultural producers and small businesses to purchase, install or otherwise finance renewable energy equipment and/or technology. We’re proud of the work we’ve done to support farms and dairies in reducing their energy consumption costs while supporting their climate resiliency—we recently awarded a $353,628 grant to an agricultural producer to install a solar photovoltaic to provide energy to the farm’s irrigation wells, resulting in less fossil fuel and reduced annual energy expenses. Another investment was awarded to an electronic circuit-board manufacturer to purchase three batteries for renewable energy storage to power the off-grid manufacturing site.

REAP has successfully supported key producers and manufacturers in rural Nevada to transition to renewable energy usage—in FY23 alone, $1,154,855 of funding was announced for REAP projects in Nevada.

We will continue to support energy efficiency and renewable energy in rural Nevada through the recently announced Rural Energy for America Program Technical Assistance Grant (REAP TAG) which funds organizations, cooperatives, and/or state, tribal and local governments to provide technical assistance for potential REAP applicants to submit funding applications. We hope to continue to see increasingly strong applications that push Nevada into a greener future, reducing costs for rural producers and manufacturers and increasing sustainability.

RCAC: Ensuring Nevada’s Indigenous and rural communities are included and prioritized in state development planning is crucial. Could you outline the strategies being developed for this purpose?

Lucas Ingvoldstad: Rural and tribal communities should not just be able to access resources and funding for jobs, infrastructure and economic stability—they should also have an active voice in shaping and deploying those opportunities. Nevada is proud to be one of only 11 states in the Biden-Harris Administration’s newly created Rural Partners Network (RPN) initiative. RPN is an all-of-government program with staff in Nevada who travel around the state to meet with rural and tribal communities, identifying local issues and discussing funding solutions. In the town of Tonopah, Nevada, a distinct lack of local primary healthcare led to the University of Nevada, Reno partnering with USDA-RD to provide residents with a healthcare needs assessment to survey community behaviors and concerns regarding medical needs. RPN will continue to work together with all residents of rural Nevada by building relationships in local communities, listening to their needs and developing strategies for building human, social and economic capacity that meet those needs on their own terms.

RCAC: Your experience in government and external affairs undoubtedly offers valuable perspectives. What key policy lessons are you applying to best meet rural Nevada’s challenges?

Lucas Ingvoldstad: To best meet rural Nevada’s challenges, some key policy lessons include:

  • Tailored Solutions: Recognizing that rural areas have unique needs and challenges compared to urban areas. Policies should be customized to address these specific rural issues, such as access to healthcare, education, infrastructure and economic development.
  • Partnerships and Collaboration: Fostering partnerships between government agencies, local communities, businesses and nonprofits to leverage resources and expertise. Collaborative efforts can lead to more effective solutions and better outcomes for rural areas.
  • Technology and Innovation: Embracing technology and innovative solutions to bridge the rural-urban divide. This includes expanding broadband access, promoting telehealth services and supporting entrepreneurship and small businesses through digital platforms.
  • Sustainable Development: Encouraging sustainable development practices that protect natural resources, promote renewable energy and support agriculture and tourism sectors crucial to rural economies.
  • Empowerment and Inclusion: Ensuring that rural communities have a voice in policy-making processes and are included in decision-making that affects them. Empowering local leadership and engaging residents in community development efforts are vital aspects of effective policy.

By applying these lessons, we can work towards addressing rural Nevada’s unique challenges and create opportunities for growth, prosperity and resilience in these communities.

RCAC: Given Nevada’s unique environmental challenges, how is USDA-RD prioritizing water and natural resource management in rural areas?

Lucas Ingvoldstad: Through Rural Development, the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to reducing climate pollution and increasing resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Making sure underserved rural communities have sustainable and efficient access to water and other resources is more than a priority for USDA-RD—it’s part of our fundamental core as an agency. USDA-RD’s Water and Environmental Programs (WEP) is the only federal program exclusively focused on water and waste infrastructure needs of rural communities with populations of 10,000 or less.

New water tanks and wastewater systems in particular improve climate resiliency in rural Nevada by ensuring safe and sustainable water usage, reducing maintenance costs and resource loss.

Recently, we celebrated the ribbon-cutting for a $40 million new water and sewer system for the city of Yerington, the largest linear investment in our agency’s state history. The city of Yerington’s water system was originally constructed in the 1930s and it was estimated the city was losing 26% of its water due to leaks and breaks. The new water and sewer system will reliably and sustainably serve over 1,000 existing customers from the city of Yerington and the Yerington Paiute Tribe, ensuring efficient water management for decades to come.

This is one of many instances of RD funding infrastructure to support affordable and equitable rural natural resource management. Other recent achievements include a new water tank in Mt. Rose Bowl, near Reno, whose first day of usage ended five months of the community being forced to boil all water before use, and decades of water loss.

RCAC: Finally, could you share your insights on the future of Nevada’s rural communities? What opportunities and challenges do you foresee, and how does USDA-RD plan to support their growth and resilience in the face of these dynamics?

Lucas Ingvoldstad: Rural Nevada is at an incredible and historic inflection point. Every year, we invest more and more in clean energy, broadband internet access and modern and sustainable infrastructure and technology, and rural Nevada reaps the rewards of those investments through higher quality of life and thriving local economies.

But as this landmark growth occurs, attracting more investments, businesses and people to rural Nevada’s vast and varied opportunities, it’s important above all else that the values and qualities of rural communities are preserved. It’s important that rural Nevadans have affordable housing to remain in their communities and enjoy their increased access to more and better markets, education and healthcare. It’s important that tribal bodies can share in the benefits of investments in rural areas. And it’s important that all this growth happens sustainably and builds climate resiliency in rural Nevadan communities rather than drawing natural resources away.

Our diverse programs enable us to support every aspect of rural communities during this critical transition. We support first time homeowners as well as their businesses and farms, invest in community needs from water to healthcare, and always maintain a dialogue with the community about their thoughts and concerns.

USDA-RD will continue to invest in rural innovators and infrastructure, changemakers and capacity building to ensure that all Nevadans feel the prosperity of the Silver State, wherever they live.


Also in this issue of Network News:


RCAC 2023 Annual Report – Rural Collaboration: Partnering to rebuild Paradise, California
Our 2023 Annual Report is here! Click below to check it out.

View the Annual Report


Report: Creating the Mora County Water Alliance
Small, rural water systems in northern New Mexico face significant challenges in providing safe drinking water services and maintaining compliance with regulations. On #EarthDay2024, we shared a report from our RCAC staff that reviews the impact of technical assistance on rural water systems and identifies the strengths and weaknesses of how it is provided.

Read the full report