Yesterday, the United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry passed the bipartisan Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, commonly known as the Farm bill. The bill included the Rural Energy Savings bill, a bipartisan effort led by Oregon's Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) to create jobs and lower energy bills for families and small businesses in rural communities by promoting energy-saving home renovations.
"Energy-saving renovations make a lot of sense," Merkley said. "It lowers energy bills for small businesses and families in rural areas, and creates much needed construction jobs at a time of sky-high unemployment in the construction industry. I am pleased we could include this into the farm bill, so we can start creating jobs and saving money this year."
The Rural Energy Savings Program would assist rural electric co-ops in offering low-interest loans to their customers, which families and businesses could then repay through savings on their monthly energy bills. Oregon has 18 electric co-ops serving communities across the state. To borrow money to fund local energy-efficiency programs, individual co-ops or state-based groups of co-ops will apply to the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) within the US Department of Agriculture.
The Farm bill will now go to the full Senate for consideration.