Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced funding for 631 projects across the nation - including 45 in North Carolina - that will help agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce their energy consumption and costs, use renewable energy technologies in their operations and/or conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy projects. Grant and loan funding is made available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which is authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill.
With today's announcement, USDA is making investments of more than $21 million in energy projects nationwide. Despite budget uncertainties, USDA remains focused on strengthening the rural economy.
"As part of the Obama Administration's 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy, USDA continues to work with America's farmers, ranchers and rural businesses to help them save energy and improve their bottom line," Vilsack said. "This program and others like it would not be available without a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill, and again I urge members of Congress to pass a bill when they return to Washington next month."
REAP helps producers reduce energy costs and increase production efficiency. For example:
- The Tate Family Farm in Climax, N.C., will use a $7,403 grant to install an energy-efficient geothermal system.
- Yarbro Farms in Lawndale, N.C., was awarded a $15,624 grant to make lighting, heating and insulation improvements to four poultry houses.
- Butler Farms in Lillington, N.C., was selected to receive a $16,250 grant to upgrade an anaerobic digester system to produce electricity from the farm's waste stream.
Farmers, ranchers, business owners and agriculture producers in 41 other states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will also receive funding. For example, Iron Mountain Nursery in Stagecoach, Nev., will use a $12,476 grant to install a 7 kW solar photovoltaic system to provide power for its farm and nursery. This project is expected to generate 13,000 kW of energy annually.
Finca Gonzalez, a fruit and vegetable farmer in Lajas, Puerto Rico, will use a $20,000 grant to install a 23 kW photovoltaic system to replace 97 percent of the farm's energy consumption.
Under the terms of REAP, up to 25 percent of an eligible energy production or conservation project can be funded through a grant, and additional support can be provided in the form of a loan. Since the start of the Obama Administration, REAP has helped fund nearly 7,000 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide.
Today's announcement includes almost $300,000 in grants to 19 agricultural producers and rural businesses to conduct feasibility studies for renewable energy systems. For example:
- The Gunnison County Electric Association, Inc., in Gunnison, Colo., will receive a $6,739 grant to assess the feasibility of installing a small hydropower generating plant at the Taylor Reservoir Dam. If built, the plant would generate 4 megawatts of power.
- Salmon River Electric Cooperative, Inc. in Challis, Idaho, will use a $23,759 grant to determine the feasibility of building a 200 kilowatt gasification system to create electricity out of waste biomass.
- Pioneer Energy, LLC in Hesperus, Colo., was selected to receive a $25,000 grant to help fund a feasibility study on building a 99 megawatt wind farm near Lake Andes, S.D.
REAP offers financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements. These federal funds leverage other private funding sources for businesses. REAP also helps the conservation of natural resources and the development of new forms of energy that reduces America's dependence on fossil fuels and creates a stronger rural economy.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way - strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.
USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as the Department implements sequestration - the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act.
USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.