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USDA Helps Rural Businesses Make Energy Efficiency Improvements, Adopt Renewable Energy Systems

Nikki Gillespie
Release Date

   Investments will Help 36 Businesses Boost Their Bottom Line

   ST. PAUL, Minn., Dec. 12, 2019U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development State Director for Minnesota Brad Finstad today announced investments totaling more than $22 million to help 36 rural small businesses and agriculture producers make energy efficiency improvements and adopt renewable energy systems.

   “Renewable energy systems and even the smallest energy efficiency improvements can have a significant impact on the bottom line for small businesses,” Finstad said. “Under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary Perdue and Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Donald “DJ” Lavoy, USDA is committed to the partnerships that help make these projects a reality.”

   Recipients can use REAP funding for energy audits and to install renewable energy systems such as biomass, geothermal, hydropower and solar. The funding can also be used to increase energy efficiency by making improvements to heating, ventilation and cooling systems; insulation; and lighting and refrigeration.

   For example:

  • Crow Wing Recycling, Inc. will receive $160,651 to make energy efficiency improvements with the purchase and installation of new electric drive motors and LED lighting. The REAP grant will save the recycling company $94,113 each year and reduce energy consumption by 59% annually, which is enough energy to power 51 homes.
  • Heartland Corn Products in Winthrop, Minn. will receive $250,000 to purchase and install distillation and dehydration equipment at their ethanol plant. The REAP grant will allow the plant to increase production by 10 million gallons of ethanol annually, which is enough ethanol to fuel 13,550 automobiles per year. 
  • Lettuce Abound, LLC will receive $49,371 to purchase and install an insulation and lighting system. This project will save $59,432 per year and reduce energy use by 84% annually, which is enough energy to power 70 homes.
  • Stark Wines, LLC dba North Folk Winery will receive $15,500 to purchase and install a 24kW ground solar energy system. This project will save $3,419 per year and reduce energy use by 134%.

   Examples of projects being funded in other states include:

  • In Alaska, four commercial fishing boat operators will receive a total of $74,153 to purchase equipment to reduce energy costs and keep their catch fresh. One of the operators, Jasper P. Allbrett, in Sitka, will receive a $48,618 grant to upgrade the insulation of fish holds, pumps, the refrigeration unit’s electrical system and the auxiliary generator on his boat. The REAP grants will save each operator about $5,000 annually and will reduce fuel oil consumption by an estimated 34 percent per year.
  • Vicksburg Forest Products LLC in Vicksburg, Miss., will receive a $250,000 grant to upgrade lighting and make improvements to a compressed air system, which will lower electrical consumption by an estimated 63 percent a year, enough to power 462 homes.
  • Panek Farms, in Albion, N.Y., is receiving a $185,470 grant to purchase and install a 320-kilowatt solar array. The project will save the farm $32,675 each year and replace enough demand to power 36 homes.

   Finstad’s announcement is in coordination with Deputy Under Secretary LaVoy’s recent announcement that USDA is investing $237 million to help farmers, ag producers and rural-based businesses lower energy costs. The Department is providing 640 awards to applicants in all 50 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Western Pacific. USDA is providing the funding through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

   In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Supporting the rural workforce was a cornerstone recommendation of the task force.

   To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

   USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit  www.rd.usda.gov/mn.