Temple, Texas, Aug 18, 2011 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced grants for more than 900 agricultural producers and rural small businesses across the country to implement renewable energy and energy efficiency measures in their operations. Secretary Vilsack made the announcement as part of President Obama’s rural economic bus tour in the Midwest where he highlighted efforts underway to reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil, which will increase the economic competitiveness of rural America and promote job creation.
"These investments enable our farmers, ranchers and rural small business owners to develop renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements that will save them thousands of dollars in energy costs each year," Vilsack said. "This funding is an important part of the Obama Administration's plan to conserve natural resources, create jobs and lead our country on the path to becoming more energy independent."
“We’re excited to offer this program to those who want to save money and conserve energy, but are unable to do so without financial assistance,” said Paco Valentin, Texas State Director of USDA Rural Development. “As we continue to find ways to make America more energy independent, the projects this program supports will become more and more important.”
The REAP program is helping many agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy consumption. Throughout Texas, 39 small businesses and agricultural producers received over $660,000 to reduce energy consumption by making their businesses and farms more energy efficient. This funding will be used for a variety of renewable energy projects and energy efficiency improvements across the state.
Locally, W. Douglass Distributing, of Sherman, received a grant to install a new flex-fuel gas pump, which will dispense E85 gasoline, saving an estimated $11,000 per year in energy costs. The gas pump will be available to the public. Mike’s Supermarket in Rio Hondo, will use their nearly $16,000 grant to purchase a new energy efficient refrigeration system, reducing energy operating costs for the store. Lazy “S” Ranch in Nixon, Mustang Dental Care in Meridian, and the First National Bank of Bosque County, amongst several others, will use the funding to add solar panels to generate solar electricity for each respective business. Several other agricultural producers throughout Texas will use their funding to replace outdated lighting throughout their chicken houses with newer, energy efficient lights.
The grants are being provided through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), a 2008 Farm Bill initiative. REAP offers funds for farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy-efficiency improvements. These federal funds leverage other funding sources for small businesses. In all, USDA announced more than $11.6 million in energy grants today. Funding of each award is contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions of the grant agreement. Grants can finance up to 25 percent of a project's cost, not to exceed $500,000 for renewables, $250,000 for efficiency.
This announcement is an example of investments the Obama Administration is making to help create jobs and grow the rural economy. In June, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council, chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The White House Rural Council will work throughout government to create policies to promote economic prosperity and a high quality of life in our rural communities.
Recently, President Obama hosted the White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa. The Forum brought together farmers, small business owners, private sector leaders, rural organizations, and government officials to discuss ideas and initiatives to promote economic growth, accelerate hiring, and spur innovation in rural communities nationwide. The President engaged directly with a variety of rural leaders from across the nation to discuss the importance of growing small businesses and strengthening the middle class in rural America.
Since taking office, President Obama's Administration has taken significant steps to improve the lives of rural Americans and has provided broad support for rural communities. The Obama Administration has set goals of modernizing infrastructure by providing broadband access to 10 million Americans, expanding educational opportunities for students in rural areas, and providing affordable health care. In the long term, these unparalleled rural investments will help ensure that America's rural communities are repopulating, self-sustaining and thriving economically.
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 existing portfolio of more than $155 billion in 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.