ST. Jonnsbury, VT, Dec 01, 2011 -- Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager today announced that USDA is awarding funds to six maple syrup producers, including five in Vermont, to make their operations more energy efficient and competitive. Funding is provided through Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) which is administered by USDA Rural Development.
“The Obama Administration is assisting cooperatives, small businesses, and farmers across the nation as they work to reduce their energy costs,” said Tonsager. “When energy costs are reduced, American rural businesses become more competitive, allowing them to expand and create jobs.”
The maple syrup industry is vital to Vermont’s economy. According to figures compiled by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Vermont led all states in maple syrup production in 2011 with over 1.1 million gallons produced, a 28 percent increase from the previous year. The announcements today conclude a series of awards provided to maple producers in 2011 through REAP. This year, 43 projects in eight states were funded through REAP. For the year, $300,811 in grants awarded through REAP contributed to over $1.3 million in total project development to help maple syrup producers lower their energy use. For a list of reverse osmosis projects funded by USDA during fiscal year 2011, click here.
A complete list of funding recipients announced today follows:
Eric Remick Hardwick $4,975
Larry Cota East Fairfield $12,705
Matthew Gedeon Fairfax $2,112
Francis Hall Cambridge $9,470
Richard Hoburn Franklin $24,158
Jude Bluemle Hawks $7,960
A recipient must meet the conditions of the grant or loan agreement to receive USDA funding. REAP grants can finance up to 25 percent of a project's cost, up to $500,000 for renewable energy systems and $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements.
Funding announced today will allow producers to install reverse osmosis systems to remove water from sap before it is boiled down to syrup. By removing the water before boiling the sap, producers reduce the amount of energy they consume in the production process.
USDA strongly supports maple syrup producers through the REAP and other programs such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). For instance, USDA used a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG), a component of EQIP, to help an award-winning maple syrup producer purchase and install a clean burning, wood-fired evaporator to improve the maple sugaring operation, thereby decreasing its environmental impact and increasing safety. The CIG project, the first of its kind in New Hampshire, is funded by a $10,534 grant that NRCS awarded to The Maple Guys of New Hampshire two years ago. The Maple Guys will match the grant CIGs promote innovative conservation approaches and technologies that support environmental enhancements.
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 creating job opportunities 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 $155 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.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).