Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today released a report highlighting the ways in which USDA's Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) contributes to U.S. energy independence and helps rural small businesses and farmers become more energy efficient. The Secretary also reminded eligible farmers, ranchers and rural business owners that the deadline to apply for some types of funding this year is approaching.
"The Obama Administration understands that helping our nation become more energy efficient is key to continuing the current economic recovery and reducing our reliance on foreign oil," Vilsack said. "Stable energy costs are a prime factor in an employer's decision to expand a business or hire new workers. That is why USDA has partnered with more than 13,000 of America's farmers, ranchers and rural businesses to improve their bottom line by helping them find energy efficient solutions that will spur economic growth and prosperity in rural America."
The REAP program is part of President Obama's all-of-the-above approach to energy that includes increasing domestic oil and gas production, developing new alternative energy sources, and reducing our reliance on oil through energy efficiencies. To coincide with the report's release, Rural Development state offices across the nation are holding events today to demonstrate how REAP helps reduce energy use and supports the development of renewable energy sources. During the next several weeks, RD state offices also are continuing to conduct energy stakeholder roundtable meetings to highlight Rural Development programs that help businesses conserve energy.
Vilsack said that since President Obama took office three years ago the REAP program has:
* Supported 5,733 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide;
* Generated or saved an estimated 6.5 million megawatt hours of power;
* Provided $192 million in grants and $165 million in loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small business owners for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements;
* Fostered partnerships that have leveraged an estimated $800 million from other sources.
REAP is Rural Development's most successful and competitive renewable energy and energy efficiency program. It was authorized under the 2002 Farm Bill and is administered by USDA Rural Development. Since the first REAP awards were made in 2003, the program has helped more than 13,000 rural small businesses and agricultural producers, saved enough energy to power nearly 600,000 American homes for a year, and funded more than1,000 solar projects and more than 560 wind projects. The program provides grants, loan guarantees, and a combination of grants and loan guarantees to rural small businesses and agricultural producers.
Funds may be used to purchase renewable energy systems and to make energy efficiency improvements. REAP also provides grants for feasibility studies for renewable systems, energy audits, and renewable energy development assistance for agricultural producers and rural small businesses. In 2011, grants and loan guarantees funded projects in all 50 States and territories.
While applications for REAP guaranteed loans for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements are being accepted through June 29, 2012, applications for REAP grants and loan/grant combinations must be submitted no later than March 30th. For additional information on how to apply for REAP funding, see Page 2948 of the January 20 Federal Register, http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/SupportDocuments/MN-RBS-REAP-AuditNOFA.pdf, or contact your USDA Rural Development state office. A list of these offices is available at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/StateOfficeAddresses.html.
Since taking office, President Obama's Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council -- chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack -- the President wants the federal government to be the best possible partner for rural businesses and entrepreneurs and for people who want to live, work and raise their families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $165 billion in affordable 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 America.