U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that the agency is seeking applications from rural small businesses and agricultural producers for funding to make energy efficiency improvements or to install renewable energy systems. The funding announced today is being provided through USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
“Developing renewable energy presents an enormous economic opportunity for rural America,” Vilsack said. “This funding will help farmers, ranchers and rural small business owners incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency technology into their operations, create jobs and help America become more energy independent. When small rural businesses and farmers cut their energy costs with cleaner and more efficient energy, we are both helping their bottom lines and reducing the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that affects our climate.”
According to the USDA, investments from programs like REAP help support the true engine of America’s economic growth – a thriving middle class. REAP is one of many USDA programs and initiatives to support an expanded domestic energy economy. In addition to helping to increase renewable energy production, USDA makes investments in the bioeconomy, provides support for the emerging biobased products industry, supports new technologies, and supports energy efficiency improvements.
REAP funding has helped farmers expand renewable energy use in recent years. The new Census of Agriculture shows the number of farms utilizing renewable energy production has doubled in the last five years. More than 57,000 farms reported using a renewable energy system in 2012, while 23,451 operations reported doing so in 2007. Solar panels accounted for 63 percent of renewable energy systems on farms, with 36,331 farms reporting their use.
Created by the 2008 Farm Bill, REAP was reauthorized by the recently passed 2014 Farm Bill. For fiscal year (FY) 2014, USDA plans to award up to $12.3 million in grants and $57.8 million in loan guarantees. Additional REAP funds provided by the Farm Bill will be made available with a subsequent notice.
USDA is accepting applications for:
- Renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement loan guarantee and grant combinations;
- Renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement loan guarantees; and
- Renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement grants.
- Requests for grants may not exceed 25 percent of a project’s cost – either for stand-alone grant requests or for grants combined with loan guarantees.