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USDA Announces Funding to Cut Energy Costs for Farmers, Ranchers, and Rural Small Businesses

Erin McDuff
Release Date
May 05, 2014

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking applications from rural small businesses and agricultural producers for funding to make energy efficiency improvements or to install renewable energy systems.

“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.”

The funding announced today is being provided through USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Created by the 2008 Farm Bill, REAP was reauthorized by the recently passed 2014 Farm Bill, and since the start of the Obama Administration, it has supported more than 8,200 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide. During this period, USDA has provided more than $264 million in grants and $212 million in loan guarantees through REAP to agricultural producers and rural small business owners.

“REAP funding is an example of the many ways that USDA is helping revitalize rural economies to create opportunities for growth and prosperity, support innovative technologies, identify new markets for agricultural producers, and better utilize our nation’s natural resources,” said Oregon State Director Vicki Walker. “Investments from programs like REAP help support the true engine of America’s economic growth—a thriving middle class.”

For example, USDA provided Peoria Gardens, a nursery in Albany, Oregon, with a $46,805 REAP grant in July 2013 to provide a sustainable solution to the company’s rising energy costs and increasing dependence on fossil fuels. Keeping fragile plants like the nursery’s poinsettias growing in greenhouses during the winter in the Northwest means high energy bills for nursery operators. Peoria Gardens used the grant from USDA to offset 25 percent of the cost for installing triple-wall polycarbonate siding and energy efficient lighting, which save energy while improving working conditions for the company’s 23 full-time employees and 38 seasonal part-time employees. These energy efficiency measures are reducing the nursery’s energy usage in the greenhouses by 42 percent, improving the bottom line rural small business.

Today’s announcement makes available up to $12.3 million in grants and $57.8 million in loan guarantees nationwide. Additional REAP funds provided by the 2014 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.
Applications for REAP grants in Oregon are due to the USDA Rural Development Oregon State Office by close of business on July 7, 2014, while applications for REAP guaranteed loans in Oregon are due by close of business on July 31, 2014. All applications should be submitted to:
          USDA Rural Development
          Attn: John Holman, Business Programs
          1201 NE Lloyd Blvd, Suite 801
          Portland, OR 97232-1274

Additional information on REAP funding and the application process is available on page 25564 of the May 5, 2014 Federal Register.

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.

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.