USDA Rural Development will hold a community-wide discussion for those interested in the Rural Energy for America Program, which provides financial assistance to rural businesses and agricultural producers interested in pursuing renewable energy or energy efficiency projects. The meeting will take place December 2, 2014 at 10:30 a.m. at the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Research Center, 1509 Aggie Drive, Beaumont, Texas.
As many U.S. farmers are discovering, renewable energy is the new cash crop of the 21st century. Renewable energy and energy efficiency systems provide a significant opportunity to increase local revenue and the economic yield of land while bolstering the local job market. Energy efficiency improvements are a useful tool for increasing farm or business productivity while reducing costs. Small businesses are also discovering the advantages renewable energy and energy efficiency projects can have on their bottom line. A decrease in the cost of refrigeration or lighting can add to the profit margin of small rural businesses and allow them to flourish and expand. By investing in energy efficient equipment, agricultural producers and rural small businesses can enjoy savings and increased reliability for years to come.
USDA Rural Development provides financial assistance in the form of grants and guaranteed loans to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements through the Agency’s Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP). REAP offers funds for farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy-efficiency improvements.
Many projects have been funded throughout Texas under the REAP program. This funding was used for projects ranging from installation of solar and wind renewable energy sources, improving irrigation systems, upgrades to air conditioning and refrigeration units, and retrofitting poultry houses with more energy efficient equipment.
Grants can fund up to 25% of a project’s total eligible costs, and are limited to $500,000 for renewable energy projects or $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements. Grants as low as $2,500 for renewable energy projects and $1,500 for energy efficiency projects, will be considered. Guaranteed loans can fund up to 75% of a project’s total eligible costs, with a minimum of $5,000 and a maximum of $25 million.
All agricultural producers, including farmers and ranchers, who derive 50% or more of their gross income from agricultural operations are eligible. Businesses in a rural area which meets the Small Business Administration size standards can also apply. A private entity, a rural utility, and rural electric cooperatives are typically eligible, however non-profit and public bodies are not eligible.
The first round of REAP applications will be due in February 2015 and the second in May 2015. For more information on the program and to apply for funding, details are available on the USDA Rural Development website, http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_Reap.html. For additional information, call your local USDA Rural Development office at (936) 634-9900, extension 4.