U.S. Senator Kay R. Hagan (NC) today announced that 31 projects in North Carolina have been selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy consumption and costs through renewable energy technologies. The funding for these projects comes from the 2008 Farm Bill's Rural Energy for America Project (REAP). USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack made this national announcement in Huntersville, North Carolina this afternoon.
"Agriculture is North Carolina's largest industry, generating $74 billion in economic activity and employing nearly one-fifth of our state's workers," Hagan said. "By saving money on energy costs, small business owners will be able to grow their business and hire more workers. I'm pleased that North Carolina's small businesses owners will receive this support and I thank Secretary Vilsack for visiting Huntersville to make this important announcement. I continue working to enact policies that will help North Carolina become a national leader in renewable energies and technologies."
Secretary Vilsack made the announcement while touring Metrolina Greenhouses, a family-owned plant and services company in Huntersville, NC, that has received a REAP guaranteed loan and three grants totaling more than $1 million since 2007. In 2009, Metrolina received a combined REAP guaranteed loan and grant to construct a wood boiler heating system to supplement and replace the natural gas and fuel it uses at the 120-acre facility. In addition to heating Metrolina's greenhouses, using wood chips in the boiler provides an additional market for local lumber mills and logging operations.
Last week, Hagan voted to approve for the 2012 Senate Farm Bill, which includes $241 million for REAP so that USDA can continue investing in these important projects. The bill will provide the certainty and flexibility North Carolina farmers need to do what they do best: farm. Included in the Farm Bill was Hagan's "Plain Language" amendment that increases NC farmers' access to crop insurance., the sole safety net for farmers.