Bangor, Maine, Apr 01, 2013 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA is seeking applications to provide assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Funding is available from USDA's Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today’s announcement is one part of the Department’s efforts to strengthen the rural economy.
“The Obama Administration continues its commitment to help our nation become more energy independent by partnering with agricultural producers and rural small businesses as they build renewable energy systems and reduce energy usage," said Vilsack. "These investments will not only help our farmers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs, but also provide a new potential revenue source and stabilize their operations’ bottom lines."
USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel said, “Investing in the future of agricultural producers and rural small businesses in Maine is a high priority for USDA Rural Development. The REAP Program aids in strengthening Maine organizations by helping them to implement energy-saving or alternative energy systems which can lead to reduced operational costs, lower emissions, and a cleaner Maine environment.”
REAP, authorized by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, (Farm Bill) is designed to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs and consumption and help meet the Nation's critical energy needs. USDA is accepting the following applications:
• Renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement grant applications and combination grant and guaranteed loan applications until April 30, 2013;
• Renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement guaranteed loan only applications until July 15, 2013;
• Renewable energy system feasibility study grant applications through April 30, 2013.
More information on how to apply for funding is available in the March 29, 2013 Federal Register, pages 19183-19190, or contact Beverly Stone, Energy Coordinator at 990-9168.
Since the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill and through the end of Fiscal Year 2012, REAP has funded nationwide over 6,800 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, feasibility studies, energy audits, and renewable energy development assistance projects.
For example, in Maine last fiscal year Cozy Acres Greenhouse in North Yarmouth, received a REAP Grant in the amount of $48,750 for the purchase and installation of a new solar photovoltaic system and a new geothermal system for the greenhouse in North Yarmouth. These systems will help create a zero carbon footprint in the growing of plants and vegetables for the community. Another example is PRL Hancock, which received a REAP Grant in the amount of $160,000 for the purchase and installation of a biomass boiler for a sawmill. It will use waste wood as feedstock for the boiler and reduce their use of fossil fuels by 100 percent. The biomass boiler is anticipated to produce 63,000,000,000 BTUs annually.
These are examples of the many ways that USDA is helping revitalize rural economies to create opportunities for growth and prosperity, support innovative technologies, identify new markets for agricultural producers, and better utilization of our nation's natural resources.
The Obama Administration is working to promote domestic production of renewable energy to create jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, combat global warming, and build a stronger rural economy. The President’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 Tom 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 has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA 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 $700 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.
USDA Rural Development has Area Offices located in Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston, and Scarborough, as well as a State Office, located in Bangor. There are 65 employees working to deliver the agency’s Housing, Business, and Community Programs, which are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, and farmers, and improve the quality of life in rural Maine. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development's web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/me.