United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Thursday that four Vermont businesses and agricultural producers would receive $121,855 in grants to help them become more energy efficient or produce renewable energy. The grants will help sugar makers boil syrup more efficiently, help turn cow manure into electricity, and help a small firewood business switch to a renewable fuel source.
"This funding will help rural small businesses improve their bottom line and improve our environment with more energy efficient equipment," said Vermont and New Hampshire State Director Ted Brady. "USDA Rural Development is helping to build sustainable rural communities one business at a time. These grants incentivize investment that helps businesses stay in the black and helps our country move towards energy independence."
The competitively awarded grants cover up to 25 percent of a project’s cost. The $121,855 in federal funding will be matched with more than $360,000 in other funding. During an event in North Carolina Thursday, Vilsack announced $68 million in USDA grants through the Rural Energy for America Program, recently reauthorized in the 2014 Farm, Foods and Jobs Bill.
The four Vermont businesses and agricultural producers receiving grants are:
- Branon Shady Maples Inc. (Fairfield): $33,312 will assist the purchase and installation of two reverse osmosis machines to increase energy efficiency in maple syrup production and reduce oil consumption by an estimated 770 million BTUs annually.
- David Franklin Maple Syrup (Guilford): $7,043 will assist the purchase and installation of new evaporator and pans reducing wood consumption by 26 cords and an estimated 476 million BTUs annually.
- Joneslan Farm LLC (Hyde Park): $40,000 will assist in the purchase and installation of anaerobic digester heating and mixing system improvements that will generate an estimated 1,133,311 kilowatts of electric power and thermal energy annually.
- Mark A. Bergeron Firewood (White River Junction): $41,500 will assist with the purchase and installation of a biomass heated firewood kiln. The new system will sustainably increase firewood production by 224 cords per heating season.
U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy, Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch said: "This shows a strong federal commitment to energy efficiency and biomass projects for Vermont’s agricultural sector. Sugar makers, farmers, and foresters are using these funds to leverage their financing and enhance their businesses." Vermont’s Congressional Delegation has worked to ensure the REAP program is funded and that Vermont farmers and small businesses have access to the program.
Through the Rural Energy for American Program, USDA Rural Development helps finance the cost of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements for rural small businesses and agricultural producers through grants, loan guarantees and grant/guarantee combinations. The agency is currently accepting both grant and loan guarantee applications.
President Obama's historic investments in rural America have made our rural communities stronger. Under his 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, through its RD mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $201 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas. For more information on Rural Development visit the Vermont/New Hampshire Rural Development website (www.rurdev.usda.gov/nh-vtHome.html) or contact USDA RD at (802) 828-6000.