Washington, D.C., Mar 20, 2012 -- 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. USDA recognizes that renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation programs provide opportunities for economic growth and prosperity in rural America.”
REAP 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 than 1,000 solar projects and more than 560 wind projects.
In Montana, twenty-four projects have received funding to date. For example, the Turnbull Hydroelectric project near Sun River, Mont. provides hydroelectric generation on an irrigation drop. Rural Development provided a Business & Industry loan guarantee and a REAP grant in 2010. The project was built on an existing canal in the Sun Valley irrigation district.
REAP funds have also been allocated to place a solar array on a new manufacturing plant and headquarters for Simms Fishing, a fly fishing gear manufacturer in Bozeman, Mont. The company makes waders, boots, vests, and other equipment for outdoor recreation. Installation of the solar array is expected this spring.
Matthew Jones, Montana’s State Director for Rural Development, said “We have seen increasing demand for REAP here in Montana, and have steadily grown the program over the last few fiscal years. From large-scale hydroelectric to small-scale solar and wind, Rural Development has invested over $1 million into energy projects in our state.” A full list of Montana projects are available here.
REAP provides grants, loan guarantees, and a combination of grants and loan guarantees to rural small businesses and agricultural producers. 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. 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. For information about applying for REAP assistance, visit http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/mt
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.